The comedian who can't look at his audience


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Media captionComedian Chris McCausland talks about being blind ahead of his debut at the Apollo. Comedian Chris McCausland makes his debut on the "Holy Grail" of TV comedy programmes Live at the Apollo early next year , but he hadn't planned on becoming a comedian at all.It was only after he went blind as a teenager, and then lost his job years later due to depression, that he turned to jokes. McCausland, 40, was born with a hereditary eye disease that left him blind in his late teens. "I was losing my sight all the way through childhood," he says."I could never read the letters on the blackboard or anything at school, but I could run around and play football." His sight loss was gradual and hard to cope with, but as the world got blurrier there was never a right time to process what had happened. "I was very self-conscious.I hated using a [white] stick and I resisted it 'til the very last minute because it labelled me as being blind or disabled, which I was, but it was still quite new.I was very slow on the coming to terms with it." McCausland's sight got so bad in his 20s that he was forced to give up his job as a website designer and became unemployed. "I was a little bit depressed then and a mate of mine ran a pub.So I ended up going down to his pub quite a lot and maybe drinking a little bit more than I should," he says. "Then I got a job in a call centre for a few years just doing sales which I think sorted me out." While there, McCausland started to take an interest in the comedy scene and searched the web to see how he might get into it. "I came across a thing that said you could be a comedian in two weeks and I thought 'behave - nobody could do that'." But he gave it a go and "dared" himself to write five minutes of material and perform it at an open mic night to see if he really was funny. "I didn't set the world alight but people laughed more than once - enough to make me have another go," he says. Image copyright Chris McCausland McCausland quit telesales shortly afterwards to concentrate on his new-found talent, but it took a further two years before the hobby began to pay. Initially his family were sceptical and told him to "get a proper job", but he was determined to succeed.He honed his routine performing five nights a week on the open-mic circuit - sometimes he would have up to four or five gigs a night, a number which creates its own original challenges. "It can play tricks on your mind because you get to a point where you ask yourself 'have I told them this or was it the last show I did 40 minutes ago?'" As McCausland travels the circuit so do his two sighted guides. They accompanied him to the month-long Edinburgh Fringe Festival where they helped him get around the city. "It's a long old slog for them to be sitting through the same show for a month." So he tends to switch them halfway through. As well as getting McCausland to his shows, his guide for that day helps him on to the stage at each venue - where the comedian always has a stool to sit on or stand beside.It doubles as a helpful point of reference when he gets up and moves around. "If I didn't have a stool," he says, "half of my brain would be thinking 'which way have I turned?'." McCausland can't walk into the audience like his fellow comedians, and has to memorise his script thoroughly before a show. "Other comedians have more flexibility and more mental freedom.They can be loose with what they have written.He says they don't need to concentrate so hard or cram it all into their heads like he does, because they can look at notes. And though he has to approach his comedy a little differently, McCausland does not talk much about sight loss in his set. "It's a part of what makes me 'me'.And I've mentioned it a little bit and made some jokes about it, but the idea is to get it out of the way and move on." Most of McCausland's jokes centre around life in general and he guesses that only "about 15%" of his set is made up of "blind jokes". "You don't want to keep on mentioning being blind because it stops being funny - if you are just talking about that, people are going to get bored of it." But being a comedian is not the only job McCausland has to juggle. He has a young daughter and says it can be a challenge to be a dad when you can't see. Sophie has not inherited his condition retinitis pigmentosa, she has full sight and lots of energy. "Half of the time she will run into the living room shouting 'look at me', and I have to encourage her not knowing whether she is holding scissors in her hand or got a carrier bag on her head." Implying that he must be doing OK, he quips that she is four now and he has managed to keep her alive this far. Communicating visually is important to young children who have not yet got the words to express themselves but the two have developed a system now she is beginning to understand that her dad cannot see. "If she wants to show me the bows on her dress she will put my hand on the bows and she says 'look at these bows Daddy' - it's cute. "As she gets older we will be able to go out together, because I'll hold her hand and she won't be as reliant on my ability to not walk her into a lamppost." Image copyright Chris McCausland McCausland will be appearing on the new series of Live at the Apollo early in 2018. He describes the moment he was offered the gig during a meeting at the BBC as the "highlight of his career". "I did a little dance and went and had a beer with my agent," he reveals. Though the name of the programme might suggest otherwise, the series was recorded earlier this year - and so McCausland has already performed the set in front of a 3,500-strong audience at the famous venue. He had one chance to get it right which he describes as nerve-racking. "You don't really want your first time standing in front of that many people to be filmed for everyone to see, because you just look like a rabbit in the headlights.But the whole experience was amazing, it couldn't have gone better," he says. "It's the Holy Grail of opportunity - hopefully when they edit it and put it on the television it will look alright." You can watch Chris McCausland on BBC Two's Live at the Apollo on 4 January 2018 at 22:00. For more Disability News, follow BBC Ouch on Twitter[1] and Facebook[2], and subscribe to the weekly podcast[3].You can also get in touch with the team by email[4].


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Are seafood lovers really eating 11,000 bits of plastic per year?

A dish of oystersImage copyright Getty Images

The claim: Seafood lovers could be eating up to 11,000 microscopic pieces of plastic a year.

Reality Check verdict:There is evidence of plastic microparticles being found in the particular mussels and oysters examined, but the research suggests that in order to consume that much plastic you'd have to be eating an average of more than four oysters or between 17 and 18 mussels a day.

The figure of 11,000 bits of plastic a year, which has been reported by the Daily Mail[1] and others recently, comes from a piece of Ghent University research[2] dating back to June 2014.

The researchers were investigating how much plastic is consumed by humans via water molluscs such as mussels and oysters.

The researchers looked at mussels which lived on farms in the North Sea and were bought in Germany, and at oysters from Brittany in France which were farmed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Farming in this context means the mussels and oysters lived on "rope" that hangs in seawater while they were growing.

First they examined the combined tissue of three mussels and two oysters which was about 15-20 grams of meat and found that there was an average of 0.42 plastic particles per gram.

While reports of this figure featured photographs of plastic bottles and other waste washed up on beaches, these particular particles are very small - if you put 11,000 of them in a line it would cover about 4in (11cm).

To get an idea of how many particles people were likely to be eating, the authors accessed data from the European Food Safety Authority's food consumption database.[3]

Image copyright Getty Images

The database has details of how much people of different ages eat of particular food groups.

They took a group of Belgians aged between 65 and 74 as a sample of a high consumers of water molluscs.

These people ate an average of 73.9g per day, which is about 27kg a year.When you multiply that by the 0.42 particles per gram, you reach just over 11,000 pieces of plastic.

The trouble is that the figure for seafood consumption was only based on data for 17 Belgian people and was carried out in 2004.

The 73.9g per day works out at more than four oysters and between 17 and 18 mussels every day, which is an extraordinarily high consumption.

The best corresponding figure we have for the UK is based on a small sample of 58 adults - surveyed in 2000 - who ate seafood.The group averaged 14.3g of water molluscs per day which could mean that they consumed 2,192 plastic particles per year.

That's considerably below the figure for the Belgians.

The Ghent study says that we do not yet know whether plastic microparticles are harmful to humans and that more research is needed.

But it does demonstrate that plastics are getting into our food chain via seafood such as mussels and oysters.

And it's not only about human health.The final episode of the BBC's Blue Planet II[4] warned about the dangers of sea creatures eating plastic microparticles, which come from bigger plastic items breaking down in the water.

Read more from Reality Check[5]

Send us your questions[6]

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Raised on Janet Jackson: How the pop star shaped one fan's life

Janet JacksonImage copyright Getty Images Image caption The State of the World tour is a re-formatted version of Janet's Unbreakable tour, which was put on hold when she became pregnant Janet Jackson plays the last date of her State of the World tour in Atlanta this Sunday. Staged less than a year after the birth to her first child, its a powerful return[1] - condemning domestic terrorism, white supremacy and police brutality with a sense of urgency and alarm. The political nature of the production is supported by the musical choices, which highlight socially-conscious album tracks like The Knowledge and What About alongside Jackson's 28 top 10 hits. It's earned the star some of the best reviews[2] of her career[3], and rekindled many fans' enthusiasm.Among them is Christine Cardona, who reflects here on her relationship with the singer. I recently found myself with a lapful of beignets, giddy with a childish excitement, in the backseat of a rental car.A few hours earlier, I'd flown from my home in New York to New Orleans, collected a friend in each airport, and started the two-hour drive to Lafayette for the opening night of Janet Jackson's State of the World Tour. As our "Ultimate Janet" playlist pumped through the speakers, I had flashbacks to the many drives, and the countless buses, trains and planes I'd boarded for a glimpse of Janet Jackson.I tried to remember how it all began. Image copyright PA Image caption The State of the World tour sees the star reinvigorated It was the mid-90s and I was not quite a teenager.MTV was thriving and Janet's video for Again[4] was in heavy rotation.It made me feel things I wouldn't understand for years to come.It was soft.So soft.So sensual, so strong, so… feminine. I felt something when Gary Dourdan (Janet's love interest in the video) gently circled his hand around her washboard abs.My heart sank a little when her voice broke with longing, and her doe-eyes begged to be held.Somewhere deep in the recesses of my impressionable, adolescent brain I filed this away as "Woman." Not long after, Janet released her first greatest hits album, Design of a Decade.I saved my allowance money to purchase it.To my disappointment, Again was not on the track listing.Instead, there was a whole catalogue of songs I was only half-aware of.I began to work my way backwards through the albums that led to this compilation. What Have You Done For Me Lately? The bold sexuality of 1993's janet is apparent at first glance.The album cover, famously, shows the star topless, her breasts covered by her then-partner's hands.My friend and I used to sit and read the lyrics until we had them committed to memory.I knew early on the actual words she sang in If, but I also remember the specific moment when I realised, with shock, exactly they meant. But it wasn't just sex.On You Want This[5] her confidence is relentless.It remains an enormously underrated song of female empowerment. Then there was the social consciousness of 1989's Rhythm Nation.My discovery of this album coincided with my introduction to the African-American History curriculum, or as much of it as a suburban public school in a largely white community teaches.I wrote school papers on social and racial injustices, quoting Janet's lyrics.I can now only imagine the eye rolls that must have accompanied the grading of them, but everyone at least seemed to appreciate my passion. And there was Janet's breakthrough album, Control, with its message of emancipation and independence.It's easy to understand how a teenager would latch onto that one. By the time 1997's Velvet Rope album rolled around, I was acting in real time.I purchased it at midnight on its release date, 20 years ago this past October.The cover features Janet's bright red curls bowed down in...what?Reflection?Meditation?Gratitude? Janet Jackson:The stories behind the songs[6] Janet Jackson, 50, gives birth to boy[7] I listened to it alone, on headphones, in the privacy of my own bedroom, which at the time was a small shrine to Janet - posters plastered on the walls, the floors carpeted in piles of magazines. With themes of self-awareness, loneliness, and sexual exploration, the album mirrored feelings I wasn't even aware I was having.At 15, I was just figuring out who I was.I was navigating the ups and downs of my teenage years, exploring my emotions, learning my own body, finding my way. Image copyright Rex Features Image caption The Velvet Rope is one of Janet's most intimate albums, discussing depression, death, resilience and sexuality When the Velvet Rope Tour hit Detroit, Michigan in the summer of 1998, it would be my first concert.Looking back now, I realize this trip was one of my first true experiences with diversity - the kind that my suburban New Jersey upbringing hadn't really offered.The people, both in my group and the general audience, were of varying backgrounds, ages, races and sexual orientations. My mother, who had to accompany me because I was a minor, was really taken by the number of gay men in attendance.I remember her asking what it was about this iconic, overtly sexual singer, that were they into?It was a genuine inquiry, but at the time I had neither an answer nor the need to make sense of it. It would be well over a decade before I'd be able to wrap my mind around the relationships between female pop stars and gay men.Before I'd hear countless stories about how watching their male dancers made people realize they were gay, and made others know it was going to be OK to come out;or about how music gave teens who were uncomfortable in their homes, in their schools, and in their own skin solace. It would take even longer before I realised the complex relationships between gay men and women in general.The very types of relationships that would inform my 20s, and sustain me in the single years of my 30s. First meeting On the third night of our Detroit trip, we were taken backstage to meet Janet.For some unknown reason, the image burned into my brain is of plastic bowls filled with brightly-coloured candies.She came out, sweet as the confections, smiling big, in denim overalls and a sunshine-yellow top. I was flustered and emotional.I got a quick hug and the chance to say, "thank you," over and over again, as she nodded in a way that implied she knew what I was thanking her for and, at the same time, had no idea.I cried on the plane ride back.I had come so physically close to her, but I'd not been able to articulate the things I most wanted to say. Image caption Christine Cardona (far right) and other fans meet Janet Jackson in 1998 Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Velvet Rope tour was seen by more than 2 million people in 1998 When Janet released her next two albums (2001's All For You and 2004's Damita Jo) I was attending Boston University with one of the Janet fans I'd met in Detroit.We were taking sketchy $20 bus rides between Boston and New York City every few weeks for an endless blur of album signings, talk show appearances and performances.We'd sleep outside in lines on city sidewalks, near parks, under brightly-lit marquees and the fans' camaraderie on those nights stays with me.We took care of each other. I was taking my first women's studies classes during "Nipplegate" - that infamous Super Bowl moment when Justin Timberlake ripped open Janet's bustier and exposed her nipple to the world.We were specifically asked not to mention it in our work.The instructors had tired of it, or felt it was too ripe for plagiarism.I remember feeling it was a very specific sort of slight.The country was suddenly in the grips of Janet and her (literally) star-studded nipple, and I couldn't discuss it. I don't even know if I understand in present day all the implications of that nip slip - of what it says about how women's bodies are regarded (or disregarded);about society's fears of women as sexual beings, particularly black women;and about the way culture selectively chooses when to be prudish and when the sexualisation of women is marketable and acceptable. Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Super Bowl incident derailed Jackson's career in the US for several years.Timberlake emerged unscathed After college, I won a fan club contest to meet Janet again, and was flown with my friend to Las Vegas.After some professional obligations, she retired to a private balcony with us, a few assistants, and several friends. We stood together at the edge of a railing, and I scanned her face (OK, I was blatantly staring), watching her derive satisfaction from looking at the crowd below, dancing to her music.We took a tequila shot, and talked briefly.She was kind, generous with her time. This time, I found more words than "thank you".The club was loud, and she leaned in close, almost cheek to cheek, so I could hear her famously quiet speaking voice.She encouraged me to pursue a career in television.She referenced her favourite parts of my competition entry, and I couldn't believe she had read it. It was a life highlight, but I still couldn't shake the feeling there was something I needed her to know, something I still hadn't been able to communicate. Image caption Backstage in Las Vegas with Janet Jackson Shortly after Vegas, I moved to New York City to try out that whole working-in-television thing.As my life picked up, I did fewer fan-related things.There were fewer of them to do - Janet disappeared and reappeared, weaving in and out of my life as her focus shifted away from music. In 2015, I was in my early 30s, searching for a way to ease newfound anxieties, when Janet's Unbreakable album was released.Her first record in seven years, it reminded me so much of The Velvet Rope - confident, yet vulnerable;reflective, but uninterested in other people's opinions. Aged 49, she had changed personally, vocally, and musically, but she was also, unmistakably the same Janet I fell in love with.For me, the most endearing part of the project was that it represented growth, not reinvention - the kind of growth and self-actualization we all strive for. I caught the Unbreakable Tour in Chicago and planned to see it again in New York, but Janet had some health issues followed by her pregnancy and the tour flickered out. When it was announced she would resume live performances so soon after giving birth (and getting divorced), I was surprised.I didn't imagine her coming back so quickly.At the urging of friends, I decided to take a last-minute chance on the opening night in Lafayette, Louisiana. Image caption Fans became friends, meeting up for the first night of the State of the World tour - with Janet's dancer Gil Duldulao front and centre Image caption Christine will be attending the last night of the tour on Sunday The State Of The World tour mixes old songs that have never been played live, with others that have lain dormant for almost 30 years, alongside new material.It's all-encompassing, and it highlights a lengthy and exhaustive career.This woman owns the stage for the full duration.Her dancing is mesmerizing[8] - the particular mixture of old and new choreography is masterful.She's out there "milly rocking[9]" in a way that puts kids to shame.My bias is mine, but the reviewers seem to be with me[10]. But something is different on this tour.I think people, including me, didn't expect to see her out here like this again.They've been dressing as different versions of Janet, wearing fun and thoughtful custom shirts.I've even invested in a gold key earring and some "State of the World" lip colour.Wearing them makes me so damn happy, I feel like a kid. I think we're all doing a bit of self-soothing under the security blanket of nostalgia, but we're also really thrilled that whatever this thing is, it isn't entirely in the past.The magic is still happening and that brings a distinct sort of satisfaction.The joy of having these songs and experiences to grow with is what I'd been trying to express to Janet all along. So many of us have stories about the ways Janet made us feel heard or accepted, or how she's left her mark on us.At 51, she may be embarking on her first journey through motherhood, but she already has generations of people who feel, at least a little bit, raised on Janet. Image copyright Shutterstock Image caption So far, the State of the World tour has been restricted to the US but fans are hopeful that more dates will be announced Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents.If you have a story suggestion email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..[11][12][13][14] References ^ ...

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How a bullied child is like 'Milkshake Duck'

A duckImage copyright Getty Images "Milkshake Duck" is slang for someone who is briefly and universally cheered, but then swiftly turned upon because of their previous social media posts.The family of an 11-year-old boy is the latest example of the phenomenon. Keaton Jones just wanted the bullying to stop. "It's not OK," he said."People who are different, don't need to be criticised about it." His heartfelt plea was videoed by his mother and instantly went viral after she posted it on Facebook.Celebrities including Lebron James and Justin Bieber pledged their support, and offers of help and money rolled in. But the tone of the online conversation changed dramatically when photos surfaced allegedly showing the family posing with the Confederate flag. The flag, flown by Southern troops during the US Civil War, is a highly controversial symbol.Although some see it as an emblem of heritage, many others view it as a symbol of racial hatred and the legacy of slavery. You might also be interested in: Facebook posts indicate that Keaton's father, Shawn White, could be a member of the Aryan Circle - a prison gang identified by the FBI as an "organised white supremacist group". A photo also emerged allegedly showing his father alongside a man with a swastika tattoo.The two men are apparently making a white supremacist gang symbol. Court documents show that his father had a criminal past.Over the last 20 years, Shawn White has been convicted of drug possession, reckless driving, theft, vandalism, and aggravated assault. Keaton's mother went on US TV to defend the family, fend off accusations that she was using the incident for personal financial gain, and apologise for the flag photo.But the damage had already been done, and people online began to heap scorn on the family.

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Media captionThe footage of Keaton Jones has millions of views The incident was just the latest "Milkshake Duck" example - so called after a jokey tweet that went hugely viral:

End of Twitter post by @pixelatedboat

One of the most well-known examples was Ken Bone, a man who became famous after asking a question at one of the US presidential debates in 2016.

Bone's ordinary-guy demeanour and uncool dress sense captured the internet's imagination, but after it emerged that he'd made several unsavoury Reddit posts[3], some of the love turned to hate....

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Ken Bone "On one hand it's a fun meme - its a typical example of millennial humour, you have the complete randomness of this babbled nonsense phrase but then you put it together with this very bleak dystopian look at our society," explains Aja Romano, a web culture reporter for the website Vox[4]."You never know how the information you put on the internet is going to be used or used against you." Follow BBC Trending on Facebook[5] Listen to the Trending podcast from the BBC World Service[6] Romano wrote[7] that Milkshake Duck is "about instant virality in the age of social media, as well as the growing polarization of publicly professed ideologies." "Anyone can become a public figure overnight - but it also means an increased likelihood of discovering that a new favorite has a checkered past." Romano also notes that the phenomenon is particularly pronounced amongst young people online. "It becomes this quintessentially Millennial way of approaching internet culture that is light-hearted but also deeply cynical at the core," she told BBC Trending radio. An 11-year-old boy and his family have found out just how fickle internet fame can be. Do you have a story for BBC Trending?Email the editor.[8] More from Trending:Chinese visitors left furious by 'fake' butterfly exhibition[9] Image copyright Beijing News Visitors hoping to see an exhibition displaying thousands of "dancing butterflies" in China last weekend were left disappointed after realising they had bought tickets to see plastic butterflies attached to sticks instead.READ MORE[10]You can follow BBC Trending on Twitter @BBCtrending, and find us on Facebook.All our stories are at[11][12][13]


  1. ^ Skip Twitter post by @pixelatedboat (
  2. ^ June 12, 2016 (
  3. ^ several unsavoury Reddit posts (
  4. ^ web culture reporter for the website Vox (
  5. ^ Follow BBC Trending on Facebook (
  6. ^ Listen to the Trending podcast from the BBC World Service (
  7. ^ wrote (
  8. ^ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (
  9. ^ Chinese visitors left furious by 'fake' butterfly exhibition (
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