Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Falling Down.

Before I wrote comedy, I wrote music.

Until my early twenties, I was a songwriter first and foremost. For some reason, I’ve let this go over time. The main instigator for this was leaving my band to tour with various actor / musician shows. The work I took improved me as a musician, but extinguished the spark that led me to write.

When I was in a band, I had a format to write for. Without too, I didn’t feel the need. I no longer had a reason to do it. I lost my confidence in my ability too, which was intensely frustrating.

Maybe I’ll come back to it one day, when the time is right. Whether I do or not, I’m still proud of some of the songs I wrote. A good example is 'Falling Down'. The content may be desolate, but I like it.  I’m not sure how well the lyrics stand up without the music (it’s hard to read them without hearing the song’s scansion in my head), but here goes. 

(It was hard being a teenager, man.)

I spend my days just wasting time.
Look out the window just to ease my mind.
And in a way, I feel I don't belong.
I'm smoking and I'm wondering how things went wrong.

I've always been the one for honesty.
I do my best to please all but me.
But now I feel I might be losing touch.
I'm only nineteen, why must I worry so much?

These demons, I don't need them at all.
They're pushing: please cushion my fall.

So won't you please help me now?
I'm sinking. Won't you bring me round?
Please ease my mind, it's breaking now.
And my world is falling down.
World is falling...

I wish I didn't jump with both feet first.
For each step forward, I take ten in reverse.
The smile I'm wearing doesn't reach my eyes.
But if I avert them, you won't realise.

These demons, I don't need them at all.
They're pushing: please cushion my fall.

So won't you please help me now?
I'm sinking, won't your bring me round.
Please ease my mind, it's breaking now.
And my world is falling down.
World is falling...

Monday, 30 March 2015

Life in the Fast (Food) Lane.

As I waited to board the bus today, a man alighted eating chicken and chips.

It seems we’ve reached the nadir of human existence. The passenger gnawing on a bone as he stepped off the 100 to Baldock unwittingly sounded the death knell. Antisocial behavior is the way forward. It’s each man for himself.

The bus driver was too perplexed to do anything about it. It was so far past the realms of decency, it left him powerless. We shared a moment of disdain for the chicken-eater as I got on. I then walked down the gangway and straight into the aroma of fried food from the past. There’s nothing like sitting in a hermetically sealed environment that reeks of non-specific chicken limbs to put you off the foodstuff for life

(...so speaks the vegetarian.)

I was once told off for trying to bring a cup of tea onto the bus. The driver spoke to me like I was about to commit a cardinal sin. What would he have made of today’s KFC incident? I've been top trumped.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Goo Goo G'joob.

I'm currently faced with the challenge of not opening the pack of Mini Eggs in my bag, because I said I'd share them with my wife when I get home from tonight's gig. ‎

I don't have to wait too long. I'm on the 21:23 fast train from King's Cross to Hitchin, and have about half an hour's walk home when I get off it. Either that, or a five minute taxi ride if I crack (egg pun) and decide I can't hold out until then. I went into WHSmith at the station with the intention of buying a treat for the journey back, then decided it would be better to be more husbandly. This was my first mistake. When it comes to treats, the banana in my bag doesn't cut it. I need a sugar rush and quick.

The gig was good. It was a variety night, which can be difficult for stand-up, but this wasn't a problem tonight. The audience were pleasant. I also got to have a chat with the character comic Alison Thea-Skot, which was nice, as while we were aware of each other - partly because she went to school with my wife - we hadn't properly met. Her set was great. We must get her on at Mostly Comedy at some point. 

Forgive my incoherent ramblings. I'm distracted by the cocoa embryo cases in my bag. They won't last long enough to hatch out chocolate babies. That didn't sound wrong in my head.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Old Haunts, New Tricks.

In the next week, I’ll perform stand-up at two London venues I played regularly with my old band Big Day Out, which will be an interesting experience.

I would never have anticipated I’d do this when I visited them first time around, though what we did wasn’t hugely different. Big Day Out were serious about music, less so about performance. The Supernaturals’ lead guitarist (90s namedrop) once remarked that if our amps packed in mid-set we’d get by doing half an hour’s stand-up. This was almost a premonition – though I had two band members, a handful of songs and a shedload of instruments to protect me back then. Now I just have a mic and my mind, plus a few accompanying body parts. It’s a more exposing scenario.

The venues in question are the Hope & Anchor and The Water Rats. Both hold a lot of memories. We launched our CD ‘Seven Heavenly Lemony Lemons at a Seven-Eleven in Devon’ at The Water Rats. A coachload of people came from Hitchin to support us. Our charity-shop-bought suits were accessorised with yellow ties and hankies that night, and we drank from matching pints of orange juice. We shared the bill with a band who were managed by Noel and Liam Gallagher’s older brother, who was there but showed no interest. Simon Fuller was present too, but similarly disinterested (we were no Spice Girls). NME promised to review it, but didn’t; mine is a life of near misses.

We challenged an audience member at a Hope & Anchor gig to jump up and down on a pogo stick (provided by us) for the duration of a song, in return for a copy of the LP Sing-Along Banjo Party. He did it and won it, while we barely sang for laughter. I saw my dad smoke a cigarette for the first time that night. I also spotted a fantastic bit of graffiti in the toilets: ‘Uri Gellar is a Bender’. This week’s gigs have a lot to live up to. 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Not Write.

I’d like to write some new material today but nothing’s grabbing me.

I have a list of topics I’ve discussed on this blog that I think will work in a live context, which I add to from time to time. I’ve been doing that this morning; flicking through the last few months’ posts, to see what's suitable. There are few I think will translate, but I’m not in the right mood to do it. This is frustrating, as I have the day off, and would like to use it productively.

Perhaps I should have gone into the office. I find it hard to write at home. It’s too easy to be distracted. Having said that, it’s nice to have a break from it. There’s only so much time you can spend incased in a small room, mulling over ideas.

It doesn’t help that I haven’t caught up on sleep since last week’s Mostly Comedy. Monday and Thursday’s gigs acted as a tiredness top up. Tomorrow’s preview has been cancelled, which is a shame, as it would have been useful, but at the same time, it gives me a break. I still have a gig on Sunday, so all is not lost stage-time-wise. I hope I can use the time I’ve gained tomorrow to work something up.

Woking Girl.

Tonight, me and Glyn went to Woking to play our comedian friend Jay Cowle’s gig Joke in the Box, and had a lot of fun.  

It’s the first time we’ve done a longer set at a club outside of Mostly Comedy in months. I think we needed it. We seldom perform together at the moment. When we do, we’re usually in charge of the gig as well, so our attention is split. To just be an act on the bill is a luxury, particularly when you're very comfortable with your material.

I was amazed at how busy the show was, considering we were headlining. Even I don’t know who we are and I’m one of us. The room was packed and the audience were very up for it. So much so, I was worried we’d disappoint. I did a solo set in the first half, but was so tired, I was amazed the material came out. I had an out-of-body experience as I did it; I was conscious of words leaving my mouth, yet didn't feel responsible for them. I got a good reaction considering I wasn’t present. It probably helped that I’d had a bit of a run-in at Monday's gig.

However indifferent I may have felt about my solo set, my spirits lifted when we performed together. It could have gone the other way; we’d travelled to Woking separately, and had had very little time to discuss what we’d do. Thankfully, things went in our favour. Doing it gave me a kick. Part of it is familiarity. We know the material inside out and know our roles as a double act. I’m still finding the right rhythm on my own. It takes time. I’ve worked with Glyn for longer than I’ve worked with me. I think that makes sense.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Big Cig.

I'm not sure this helps:

If anything, it reminds you to smoke. It’s the ultimate in subliminal advertising. What’s the point of hiding tobacco away behind screens or in drawers if you then put outsized cigarettes on show? It’s counter-intuitive, counterproductive counter work.  

(Try saying that with your fingers in your mouth.)

Wouldn’t it be better to do it with a product that weans people off? I don't know what: nicotine patches don't read when scaled up.

Making a keyboard bigger didn't stop Tom Hanks from using it.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Dog It.

This afternoon I mistook a small child for a dog. I need to get some sleep.

It happened the one time I ventured out, to buy cheese. It was an important – and successful – mission. I got two blocks for £3. That’s £1.50 each, if you struggle with mathematics.

If anything, I’d have expected this temporary hallucination to be brought on by a cheese coma, than as a result of me purchasing it. As I crossed the road I spotted a black Labrador skipping alongside its owner. When my eyes settled on it properly, I watched it morph into a toddler. It was a frightening moment. Thank God I didn’t pet it.

(No pun intended.)

My sleep last night was minimal. I didn’t get to bed until about 2am, and woke up at 5am. Today, I’m exhausted. I need to sit somewhere quietly and recharge my batteries. I’m seeing dogs in place of people, which can’t be a good. I can’t trust my senses. Is the cat that’s sat on my lap as I write this really a cat? If it isn’t, what is it? I knew I shouldn’t have dropped that acid. Nothing is real, man. Nothing is real.

So-so Soho

I'm pleased with how tonight's Comedy Project gig went. 

I've mentioned before how I find Soho Theatre Upstairs a difficult venue to play. It's not a comfortable room for comedy. It's hard to maintain attention. Glyn and I have tried everything there from on-book to off-book sitcom readings, stand-up shows, sketch shows and comedy plays. It's never been easy. The only way to keep the audience focused on you is to let off a flare every few minutes - and even then they'd only do it out of fear.

The piece which was the best received was Doggett & Ephgrave's Comedy Shorts, which was half an hour's worth of filmed sketches. It's far easier to home in on specific detail on film. The Balloon Debate went well too, despite us being trapped in a 5' square wicker basket for the duration.‎

This morning, I told myself to push all these perceived challenges out of my head and to try to not to over-think it. I'd use it as a chance to tell some stories and try stuff out. I wouldn't enter into it expecting too much. I'd also do my best to take my time, even if I felt it wasn't going well.

This definitely made a difference. I went into the show more relaxed than I should have been in the circumstances. It's the only time I performed there for so long without Glyn. He was present for support and to give feedback, but he wasn't on stage, which was a big difference. My next step is to write more material for my hour-long Brighton show in May. If I performed tonight's thirty-minute set twice in quick succession, someone would notice. ‎

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Saturday Night's NOT Alright.

Walking through town yesterday evening reminded me why I never go out on a Saturday night.

There seems to be a whole subspecies that exists at no other time except for then; a race with next-to-no clothing or spatial awareness. They sprawl about the pavement in groups, expressing their joy in barely discernible grunts. Their lack of an appropriate seasonal outfit suggests they’re happiest below freezing. They survive on chicken and chips. I think you get the picture.

I may be jealous in a way. I’ve never had that life. Then again, I'd never want it. I’d much rather spend a quiet night in at home than be shouting at the top of my voice over some shockingly drone-based music in a rammed club at 3am. In Nottingham. Or Coventry. I bloody hate Coventry.


Tonight, I told a friend that he reminds me of Lenny from The Simpsons. I think it backfired.

I watch the programme daily; it’s a good way to unwind. Each time Lenny Leonard comes into frame (or ‘onto paper’) I think of Ollie. Their Christian names even have a similar twang. Ollie doesn’t wear braces, nor does he worry about getting things in his eye, but other than that, the resemblance is uncanny. You need only paint him yellow for the image to be complete.

I’d been meaning to tell him about this for ages. I wanted to get it off my chest. Carrying it around had become a burden. Tonight was the night: mere minutes after he’d walked into a birthday party I was at, I dropped the bombshell.

It provoked confusion at first. He thought I meant Carl. His girlfriend thought I meant Otto. I delved into my coat pocket for my mobile to provide evidence (via the internet. I don’t have pictures of either Lenny or Ollie saved onto my phone).

I showed his girlfriend first and she laughed. Ollie seemed less sure. Hopefully it won’t tarnish our friendship. He’d probably wished I’d said Doctor Hibbert. Even if he didn’t agree, it won’t stop me thinking it. That’s not how brains work. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Here Goes the Sun.

I missed today’s eclipse because I couldn’t get dry from the bath quick enough.

Trust me to miss a once-in-a-generation event due to shoddy towel action. It didn’t help that I got up later than intended, thanks to a late-night finish from last night’s gig. I didn’t get to bed until nearly 4am. I’m a dirty stop-out.

I told myself I had enough time to run a bath and jump in and out of it. I’d planned to walk to the field near my house with a flask of coffee, to observe the eclipse outdoors, whilst resisting the temptation to look at it directly. I remembered only too well the hell Marge Simpson went through when she did this. Who says cartoons can't be educational?

(Does anyone say this?)

I got into the bath at 9:05am. I was out by 9:12. This wasn’t early enough. I still wasn’t dry by 9:20. Try as I might, I couldn’t work up sufficient friction. Drying speed decreases the more urgently you do it.

In the end I made do with peering through my net curtains as I did it. This wasn’t without risk. There was a slim chance someone walking past would make out a barely perceptible outline of a frantically towelling-off me. No-one wants to see that, even if it's just once in a decade. From my perspective, the eclipse made my dingy flat marginally dingier. At least there’s not long to wait for the next one.

Mostly New.

I used tonight’s Hitchin gig to try out five minutes of new solo material.

I’m happy with how it went. Each topic needs tightening, but showed promise. There’s a bit about the Wizard of Oz that I’m particularly happy with. The rest could do with a tinker. Couldn’t we all?

I now have to decide whether I want to slip any of it into Monday’s Soho Theatre set. The jury’s out. While the show's billed as work-in-progress, or Work in (Hope of) Progress, I’m anticipating the audience to expect something slick. This is more in my head than in actuality. I’ll run it in over the weekend to see what I think. Either way, I’ve got another chance to try it out on the 28th.

It was good gig for Doggett & Ephgrave (I like almost referring to myself in third person). We played it safe material-wise, but it went well. We’d both anticipated a tough crowd because of low numbers. They were actually lovely, and up-for-it. It was a gentler, more relaxed night than some of the recent sold out gigs.

The podcast suffered a little from technical gremlins. We forgot to clear a memory card on one of the recording devices in our rush to set up. Consequently, mine and Glyn’s mic went down halfway through Norman Lovett’s interview. Glyn switched his iPhone to record as soon as he noticed. We also rushed our interview with Tom Goodliffe a bit.

We enjoyed recording the links. For some reason, we ended up on the subject of Neighbours’ thirtieth anniversary. I told Glyn about my obsession with a specific storyline featuring the character Cheryl Stark. It was good to get this out in the open. All will be revealed when the podcast is uploaded next week. Edge-of-your-seat stuff.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Off Sick.

I cancelled an open spot I was set to do tonight, in fear that I may projectile vomit over the audience.

I’ve not felt myself since yesterday afternoon (not a euphemism). The nausea won't lift. It doesn’t help that my long-running labyrinthitis has reared its ugly, non-Bowie-related head. I feel like I’m on a fairground rotor. The timing isn’t great, what with Mostly Comedy tomorrow and my Soho show on Monday. Is it too late to find an understudy? I’d like Billy Pearce, if I have a choice.

I ummed and ahhed all morning before cancelling the gig. I wanted to do it. I had some new material to try out. Every bit of stage time I get at the moment is vital, to work up my show. It’s also a good gig to try stuff out. People expect to hear unfinished stuff; something the audience at Mostly Comedy are less keen on. I also didn’t want to let the promoter down, and mark my copybook.

I made the right decision. It’s better to take it easy tonight in the hope I feel better tomorrow, and better still by next week. The guy running the gig was fine about it. I’m sure someone else will snap up my spot; Billy Pearce, with any luck.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

My Masterpiece.

I need to fill a blank postcard with something arty this week, and I've no idea what.

This commission is for a good cause. A few months ago, I received a Tweet from someone asking if I'd submit a postcard's worth of artwork for a local exhibition in aid of Bliss, a charity which provides vital information and support to families with premature babies. The postcards will be exhibited and sold, with all proceeds going to Bliss.

My only setback is the fact I can barely write, let alone draw. Thankfully, you can also submit a collage or a photograph. The only stipulation is it has to be something related to Hitchin. I'd like whatever I do to be appropriate and show thought. I also want it to be appealing enough for someone to buy it.

I think I've stumbled across a solution which may seem like a cheat. My wife's taken some lovely pictures of Hitchin. I'm sure one of them will do the job. I won't take credit for it. I'm not that sneaky. It may seem like I've outsourced my submission, but at least then it might make some money for the cause. Anything I draw may turn evil, like the painting in Ghostbusters II.

Pointless Wedding

One of the contestants on today's episode of Pointless complained she had no spare time because she was busy planning her wedding. I found this ironic, as I was in the queue to watch a recording of the show when I booked mine. 

This sounds like a lie.  It isn't. I didn't do it on a whim. There was a bit of forward-planning. I popped the question to my girlfriend a few days before. We decided we wanted get married the same year, and to book a date before we told people, to make it tangible. So it was that I found myself on the phone to Marylebone Register Office whilst in line outside Elstree Studios, waiting to watch my favourite early evening game show. 

It wasn't the best time to make the call, if I'm honest. I hadn't thought it through. The people at the register office were very helpful and offered me a few dates, but told me that a Registrar would have to speak to me before anything could be confirmed. They said I should expect a phone call within the next half an hour. This wasn't a time frame I had. It wasn't until I was being shepherded in that they called me back. It gave a sense of urgency to proceedings. It was a little surreal. 

It's not every day that you book a wedding and hold a Pointless trophy. I'm not saying which was best.‎

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Today's Itinerary

I’ve spent the last few hours running the material I plan to do at Monday week’s SohoTheatre Comedy Project gig, plus working on a couple of new bits I might try out at Thursday’s Hitchin Mostly Comedy.

I’m pleased with how it's coming together on the whole. I’m making a point of running the stuff for the Soho show at least once a day, to get comfortable with it. If I can make the meat of the material second nature, I’ll be more relaxed on the day. It’s still very new. While there are a few weak links between set pieces, it’s beginning to feel cohesive. I’m looking forward to trying it in front of an audience. More than anything, I’m looking forward to the Actors’ Temple Work in(Hope of) Progress gig at the end of the same week, as it’s likely to be a more relaxed and receptive environment. My approach can be looser. I can risk doing unfinished stuff, to see how it lands.

Once the Soho show has past I can switch my attention to writing more for Brighton. While I’m conscious of needing to speed up my productivity to meet the May deadline, the fact a few new bits and pieces are coming together that excite me eases my mind. I plan to try out five minutes of new stuff at Mostly this week. I’ve also got a five-minute open spot at a gig in London on Wednesday. I’d like to do the same set there, but it involves projection. There are a few niche references which will be helped with a visual prompt. I may blow up a couple of key images to A3 and take them with me. I’d rather try it out two days in a row to get a better idea of whether it works. Anyone know a quick, cheap printing company? Ideally someone I don’t need to explain my need for a print of Grotbags to. I could do without that.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Baddly Spelt.

The person who designed this advert wasn’t concerntrating. 

It popped into my peripheral vision while I was browsing the internet. It was animated, so I nearly missed the mistake; nearly, but didn’t – unlike Lenor, who presumably commissioned it, proofread it and signed it off. I hope they don’t take a similarly lackadaisical approach to their detergents. If so, there could be anything in it.

(Bang goes my chance to appear in a Lenor commercial.)

I hate myself a bit for spotting it. I hate myself a lot for refreshing the page repeatedly to take a screen grab. That time could have been spent on something more beneficial, like writing my Brighton show. I wish I wasn’t so pernickety. It’s inbuilt. I was a copy editor in a past life.

At least the mistake was an innocent one. It could have been worse. Thank God Travelodge spell check their emails, that's all I'm saying. 

Friday, 13 March 2015

Any Old Iron.

It was the moment my wedding ring fell off my finger and rolled into the seating area of my local Argos Collection Point, as I tried to fit an iron into a plastic bag that was today’s personal low point.

I brought it on myself in a way. The woman at the counter had offered me an in-house bag but I'd declined it, in favour of the Wilkinson carrier I was...carrying. I didn’t foresee a problem. There wasn't a lot of shopping in it and the iron wasn’t big. I was doing my bit for the environment in my own negligible way. What I did for the planet did nothing for my self-esteem: the bag split and I nearly lost a valuable piece of jewellery in the process; none of that Elizabeth Duke shit.

Why didn’t I anticipate this chain of events? Mishaps stalk me constantly. I had hoped Argos would be safe haven – I used to work there – but it wasn’t. My predisposition for slapstick can’t be fought. I’m a modern-day Norman Wisdom, only taller, less successful and less dead. I’ve got a new iron though.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Long Number.

The tone with which the woman on the phone said yes to every fourth digit of my debit card number as I read it out suggested she enjoyed it a little too much.

She was far too breathy for my liking. By the eighth number in I thought she'd beg me not to stop. I started to panic. What if the last few disappointed? What if she needed a seven when I could only supply a four? Until today, I’d never considered the sixteen embossed figures on my TSB Classic Account Card in an erotic context.

(My real bank account details have been disguised to prevent fraud. Not that I have money to steal in the first place.)

In reality, it was hilarious. It took all the control I could muster not to laugh. We’d been conversing normally until I started reading it out, when it switched from local call to premium chat line in an instant. Still, at least she likes her job.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Load of Sh*t.

Packs of Andrex Toilet Tissue now have instructions on the back; this is what it’s come to.

I took a photo of this.

Has society reached the stage when it needs its hand held through everything*? Do 3.5 billion years of evolution and 200,000 years of human existence amount to this? If you’re of a suitable age and intelligence to read Andrex’s mini manual, surely…surely… you're already armed with this information. You’d know the basics at least. The average child can wipe their own bum at three and read simple sentences at six. By the time you can decipher Andrex’s five-stage Clean Routine, Andrex’s five-stage Clean Routine has been rendered obsolete.

I also zoomed into it.

It’s not as if they're imparting anything groundbreaking. There was no rude awakening for me. Stage Three isn’t on my personal agenda, but I don’t fall for subliminal advertising. I suspect their keenness to bring another Andrex product into the equation was the reason for the advice in the first place.

Stage Two is the most egg-sucking of them all. ‘Wipe from front to back until clean, you say? I thought you did it until you were bored of it. 

Andrex sounds like a futuristic Andrew. Just sayin'. 

*Not literally, in this instance.