Monday, 29 February 2016

University Challenged: Volume Nine (29.02.16)


Another week, another stint of unnecessary Twitter bitching. See below for the awful things I said; I’m not this nasty in person, really.



8:02pm: Bungey: HAIR.

8:03pm: Watson: MURDERER.

8:04pm: Joly de Botbiniere: greedy with letters.

8:05pm: Watson: unfamiliar with conditioner.

8:06pm: York McLoughlin: Henry Ramsey in Neighbours.

8:06pm: Massive rubber duck or tiny team?

8:07pm: By night, Bungey's hair masquerades as a microphone pop-shield.

8:10pm: de Lotbineire's smile-less face when he got that answer right was the happiest he'd ever looked.

8:12pm: THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW THE DUCK'S THERE.

8:13pm: Bungey's hair was used as a nest in the last series of Springwatch.

8:14pm: Smith's hair can be lifted off in one piece.

8:15pm: Imagine the static when Bungey takes that jumper off.

8:19pm: Watson isn't Bez in an Ian Brown wig, wasn't in Supergrass and didn't play bass for The Verve.

8:25pm:
Bungey has got pubes on his head,
Pubes on his head,
Pubes on his head.
Pubes, pubes, pubes on his head.

8:27pm: First rule of #University Challenge Club: don't smile in #University Challenge Club.

8:27pm: Jeremy Paxman feels disdain for every member of the human race.

8:29pm: I want to rub a balloon against the top of Bungey's head.

Gong Off.


I hate the self-congratulatory nature of the Oscars and award ceremonies in general.

Perhaps I'm being miserable or jealous, but I don’t think it’s necessary, particularly in the world of entertainment. I think actors are celebrated and raised on a pedestal enough, especially at the high end of their industry. Switch on BBC Breakfast of a morning or Graham Norton of an evening and their respective sofas will be bursting with performers hyperbolizing about the strenuous emotional journeys they took to bring a characterization to the stage or screen. They’ll act like they’ve stumbled across the cure for cancer or the secret to time-travel, while the interviewer laps it up. Giving an actor the chance to discuss the agony of their craft is like showing a rag to a bull. I know because I’m one of them.

(An actor and not cattle, though there's very little difference.)

Don't get me wrong. Film, television and theatre has its place. We all need to escape the humdrum now and then. But there are scores of people doing more vital jobs than standing in front of a camera or on a stage delivering lines and having their egos stroked over the fallout. Even within the same industry: a writer or an animator has a far harder slog than a person who’s fed, watered, carried to the set in a sedan chair and then paid handsomely into the bargain, yet these are the things the Oscar or BAFTA TV coverage will neglect. No-one’s interested in a scruffy author when they can see an actress looking pretty in a dress.

I could be being grumpy as it’s only just gone 9am. I clearly wouldn't turn down the opportunity to lift a gong myself (*furtively Googles for the nearest gong shop*). I know I'm a hypocrite. There are also plenty of people who deserve it. Whatever the reason for my five paragraph outburst, I’d prefer it if the morning headlines reflected the important issues in the world instead of an auditorium chock-full of the rich and cosseted. The cameras are pointing the wrong way. I once saw a well-known Oscar-winner sum up being cast as “Sometimes the role chooses you”. The expletive that exploded from my mouth could be heard on Pluto.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

IYIE #21


Tonight, we recorded the 21st episode of ‘Doggett & Ephgrave: In Your Inner Ear’; if the programme were a US citizen, and each instalment classed as a year of its life, it would finally be able to buy alcohol.

(What a clunky analogy.)

As with the last few shows, it was enjoyable to do. We’ve settled back into our groove, now that we’re recording regularly again. I’ve mentioned it here before, but it’s much more relaxed recording it in our office rather than in the studio, as we’re able to work on our own terms. It may even be too comfortable, as I sometimes forget anyone else will listen to it, when it’s just the three of us sitting around three mics in isolation.

The theme for tonight was ‘Great’, which seemed broad until it came to topics to discuss. Some of the links were tenuous, but this doesn’t matter as long as they’re entertaining. I’ll find out for sure when I listen back to it. It’s terrifying to think there are forty-hours’ worth of the show now in the can. I wouldn’t be able to pluck up the courage to listen to them all in one go. They should use it as a form of torture at Guantanamo Bay, if they don’t already.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

To Everything: Turn! Turn! Turnbull!


It was genuinely sad to see Bill Turnbull sign off his final appearance on the BBC Breakfast sofa this morning (subject to coming back as a guest).

He exudes real warmth, which is an unusual quality for a newsreader. With some people, it would be hard to tell if this was authentic or painted on, but not with Carol Kirkwood’s “Billy”. He’s clearly the real deal; an opinion that was only cemented by watching him walk his dogs in the Peak District during his last week on the programme, and reading that part of the reason he was leaving to spend more time with his bees.

In a gentle way, Turnbull was subtly subversive; cracking dad jokes one minute, then emanating sincerity the next. He was the perfect pair of hands to nudge the average sleep-encrusted British citizen through the early part of a working day. Without him, weekday mornings (and the odd Saturday) won't be the same. I’ll miss my secret daily game of guessing which presenters will be on duty when I switch the telly on first thing, and hoping one of them was him. He’s another of my secret man crushes, along with Paul Hollywood and Dick Van Dyke. I’d like to take them all on a fishing trip; whiling away the hours by a river as I listen to their anecdotes. Perhaps Billy might even admit an illicit affair with Carol after a few glugs from his hip-flask; the sly old fox.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Performing Comic-to-Comic.


Tonight I did a very strange gig. A very very strange gig.

When you’re a comic at my level who’s working up new material, it's a struggle to get stage time. This can be frustrating, particularly when you’re also a promoter who spends your whole life (exaggeration) offering other people gigs, yet seldom get your offers reciprocated.

(This sounds sexier than it is.)

As a result, you hunt far and wide for somewhere – anywhere – to try stuff out, in a room that’s at least halfway toward being conducive for comedy. It's a depressing experience, when you realise just how few small-scale venues are actually equipped for this.

It wasn’t that the venue I played tonight was awful – the room was pleasant and the person who ran it meant well – but everything about it was unclear. When I arrived at 6:00pm (admittedly an hour before the show was meant to start), the club was closed with no sign of life. I sought solace in a lovely record shop-cum-café around the corner, before returning to the club at 6:50pm, only ten minutes before I’d been called.
“I’m here for the comedy gig,” I said to the guy behind the bar on arrival.
You’re early,” he replied.
“What time does it start then?”
“7 for 7:30.”

(So just ten minutes early then.)

In the end, the room was full of other comics, who soldiered on, despite the haphazard nature of the event, and the fact there was only one genuine punter, who kept leaving the room every few minutes. We a;; did our best to get what we needed from it. I met some nice people and saw some good stuff, I just wish it had been in better circumstances. You don’t get this at Mostly Comedy.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Two Feet / Four Feet.


I caught the bus to Stotfold this morning to walk my mum's dog Barley. 

I do this most Thursdays when I'm available, which helps my mum out, as it's one day less to pay a dog-walker while she's at work (and my rates are very reasonable), and it's good for me too, as it's an excuse to get some exercise. While I walk a lot through not driving, it's nice to occasionally do it for the sake of it, without having a particular destination in mind (other than my mum's house to take the dog back).

Barley is the softest beast you could meet. He's the epitome of friendliness; always pleased to see you and unlikely to misbehave (save gobbling up the occasional bit of rubbish from the pavement, if you briefly take your eye off the game. I once saw him eat another dog's poo, which wasn't his finest moment). 

When we got back from our spot of Stotfold exploration, Barley and my mum's cat Chaser sat with me while I had a cup of tea and did some admin before catching the bus back (which I'm on as I write). This made for a nice mental break before I get ready for a gig I'm doing tonight. I'm more comfortable in the company of animals than other humans, which is a worry. Perhaps I should have been a vet (called Ivette?).


Tuesday, 23 February 2016

No Joke(s).


I wanted to get some writing today, but sadly, this wasn’t to be.

I went at it with the best intentions, but it was one of those days where everything got in the way. I’ve always found there’s a peak moment in the day when, if you don’t start working, you haven't the brain capacity to see it through. This is usually mid-morning. If you don’t strike while the iron’s hot, there’ll be no iron to strike anyway.

I hate wasting time, particularly when the clock is ticking for my forthcoming work-in-progress dates. I know I have a couple of years’ worth of blogs to fall back on when sourcing material, but it’s a hell of a lot to sift through, and a lot of it won’t necessarily translate into a live setting. I wish I could employ an editor to flick through it all, and then pull out a few that might work.

The problem is the only person I have to motivate me - or tell me I’m on the right or wrong track - is myself. I don’t have the luxury of a producer or director; it all boils down to me. I like to think I’ve got good judgement, but it’s nice to have some outside encouragement too. Left to my own devices, like most creative people, I’ll avoid work if I can. There’s plenty I can find to distract myself with if I want to be distracted.

The thing to do is chalk today down to experience and forget about it. It's also not completely true that I didn't get anything done. I tinkered with a set-piece I brought up in one of our recent radio shows, and also reminded myself of another blog which might be worthy of a little material. Perhaps if I didn’t automatically disregard the things I've done in favour of things I haven’t, I’d realise I’m not in such a bad position after all. Good luck with that, David.

Monday, 22 February 2016

University Challenged: Volume Eight (22.02.16)


Here’s today’s Twitter snarking about this evening’s episode of University Challenge. I apologise for my directness; I assure you that I’m not as bitchy as it seems.



8:06pm: Cambridge's Powell: the #UniversityChallenge Gimp Apex.

8:08pm: I do love a #UniversityChallenge contestant who's speech impediment precludes them from saying the subject they're studying. #Powell

8:09pm: Oscar Powell: a Boris Johnson love-child.

8:13pm: Cambridge's Langley used to present Look Around You.

8:16pm: Oscar Powell will be a future Tory Prime Minister. Mark my words.

8:18pm: I'd like to ruffle Russell's fluffy hair whilst singing Proclaimers hits at Clegg.

8:22pm: If Wood and Sowood married each other and then double-barrelled their names, they'd end up as Mr & Mrs Wood-Sowood.

8:25pm: The sexual tension between Paxman and Woods is palpable.

8:26pm: Powell has a poster of Michael Heseltine on his bedroom ceiling.

8:28pm: Cambridge's Langley can be found amongst the illustrations of every Seventies textbook.

8:29pm: Woods. "Arch".

Can You Hear Me?


It would be lovely to know if anyone listens to our radio show.

I tuned (or logged) in to the online radio station to listen to it when it went out last night and, while I was largely pleased with what I heard, it’s frustrating not knowing whether other people are listening too, or whether it’s just me, my wife and Glyn who are crouching around our respective laptops.

Recording the show is enjoyable, and it’s nice for the two of us to have an excuse to work together when our diaries are hard to synchronize these days – but I’d sooner swap it for a chat over a coffee in a café somewhere, if all the effort put into compiling the show is wasted, as no-one is tuning in.

Perhaps I’m being defeatist. The good thing about the way this stuff works nowadays is people no longer have to have their radio – or in this case, their internet-enabled device – on at the moment of broadcast, as they can always download the podcast at a later date. We live in an on-demand culture, vastly different to the timetable-led entertainment of the past; I’m saying this like there was never such a thing as a tape cassette.

Despite this, I still get frustrated by wasting our potential on projects where no-one else takes an active interest. It’s the same with our More Than Mostly Comedy Podcast. We've gradually got quite good at interviewing acts over time, yet despite how interesting our interviewees are, we still don’t know if anyone has listened to or liked what's put out into the ether. That said, it was nice to see a Guardian journalist tweet a recommendation of November’s episode with Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee the other day; it’s just a shame that such a sad situation brought this interest about.


Sunday, 21 February 2016

Sending Warm Thoughts.


My mood has been affected today by the sad news that Paul Daniels isn't well.

He’s a hero of mine and one of the biggest influences in my choice of career. I may not have ended up a magician, but my fascination with magic enabled me to take my first steps toward being a performer, taking in music, acting and comedy along the way. I was obsessed with him as a child, and would tune into his magic show every week. Then, last November, he performed at Glyn’s and my comedy club; stepping from childhood fantasy into reality, shaking my hand as I welcomed him on stage. Everything about the gig was perfect; Paul and Debbie were charming, both on-stage and off. Before he went on, he asked me to set his props, which felt like a privilege. His performance was a master-class from someone who was still as sharp as a pin and at the top of his game. Everyone watching knew it; people fought to sit at the front or be pulled up on stage. It was a wonderful, unforgettable night.

Since reading about his illness I keep catching myself thinking about it. I’ll be doing something mundane, and then remember the news. I wish him and his family the best at such a difficult time, and would like to thank him for igniting my childhood imagination. I’m grateful I got to tell him what he meant to me when I was growing up. Hitchin sends its love.

Doggett, Ephgrave & Daniels (19.11.15)

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Mostly Arthur Amith.


It was good to be back at last night’s Mostly Comedy, having missed last month’s show.

Me, comedianing, last night (photos by Gemma Poole)
We’re still getting used to the new venue, and the teething problems that come with being in a new space. That said, it’s a comfortable fit, largely down to the hard work and all-round assistance we get from our technician Paul Williams, who came on board the Doggett & Ephgrave Express in the past year.

(Though it’s less an ‘express’ and more of a ‘slow service.)

Glyn, comedianing, last night.
Despite all our forward planning, inevitable sound problems before the show meant we had little time to relax before curtain up. Once these issues were fixed it all ran smoothly, thanks to Paul and the rest of our staff (let’s hope Paul reads this; are you there, Paul? ARE YOU THERE?). The pre-set lighting state makes the ballroom look lovely when people arrive and it has more toilets, a bigger bar and more room for manoeuvre for the audience than our previous homes. Glyn and I are finally getting the chance to do less of the set-up and pack-down, which feels like a reward for all our previous hard work; this all bodes well for the future.


Kemsley, comedianing.

Arthur Smith is a comedian.
It was a good show too. Harriet Kemsley (who hasn’t played Mostly before) was lovely and went down well, as of course did Arthur Smith, who is the most amenable and easygoing stand-up you could meet. We’re spoilt with our line-ups. Glyn and I did more material together than we’ve done in recent months, and I was pleased to get some new solo material out in the open too. Big ticks all round. Here’s to the rest of 2016.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Bloggone.


I woke this morning (blues riff) to an email telling me my blog had been deleted, because I was phishing through it.


It wasn’t the best way to start the day, particularly as I was busy sorting things for Mostly Comedy, and didn’t have the time to address the situation properly. You could argue it was ‘a fair cop’, as if I was up to something nefarious with my blog, I should expect a comeuppance...if it weren’t for the fact I had to look up 'phishing' to find out what it meant, learning that I clearly wasn’t doing a thing of the sort in the first place.


I’ve never used the blog to steal someone's credit card details, as I have a far more effective way of doing it. It’s not been used to purloin a person’s identity, except for one time in 1995 with Sandra Bullock. It hasn’t gleaned a single password, as it’s hard to do this just through having someone read it. I’ve not perfected the technology, but I’m working on it.

In truth, it left me perplexed, as a cursory glance of the content would reveal it wasn’t the case. I was irritated by the impersonal nature of the email, and by how difficult it was to speak to respond to them to question it (though I did send an angry email back). It also concerned me, as my blog is an invaluable resource for stand-up material and for my radio show; while most of it is backed up, there was always the chance something could have slipped through the net.

Thankfully, like many things in the 21st Century, Twitter came to my aid. A tweet I posted on the subject received a handful of replies from other people in the same situation, so it was clearly a fault with Blogger and not with me. Within a couple of hours, our blogs were back; “We all stand together,” “solidarity, brother,” and all that. 



Next, I'm going to try to hack into the Pentagon.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Mostly a Mostly Press Release.

Posting the press release for tomorrow's Mostly Comedy as today's blog is a cheat of the highest order, but when you write every day, you can do with the occasional break. It may even interest someone somewhere to see the sort of thing we send to the local press. Perhaps it will sell a few tickets, though if you want to come, you'd better get in quick, as at time of writing there are only a handful left. "Go, go Gadget booking," or something to that effect.


Press Release – 31.01.16

mostly comedy
a monthly comedy and music club, at the sun hotel in hitchin

In February, Doggett & Ephgrave’s Mostly Comedy plays host to the Olivier-nominated comedian, writer, broadcaster and all-round British institution ARTHUR SMITH.

Arthur is best known for his appearances on BBC's Grumpy Old Men, QI, Have I Got News For You and The One Show, plus hosting BBC Radio 4 Extra’s Comedy Club and BBC Radio 2’s Smith Lectures. He is a Spirit of The Fringe award-winning Edinburgh Festival stalwart, and the Olivier-nominated writer of An Evening With Gary Lineker.

He started out as a member of the 1980s’ alternative comedy scene. In addition to stand-up, he wrote and performed the critically-acclaimed Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (later broadcast on Radio 4), returned to this theme for his 2013 Edinburgh Fringe show Arthur Smith Sing Leonard Cohen (Volume Too).

Stand-up HARRIET KEMSLEY joins Arthur on the bill. Described by Time Out as 'a very funny rising star’ and by Rhod Gilbert in The Mail On Sunday as one of the top 10 comics to see, Harriet is also a firm bet in comedy competitions, winning the New Act of the Year award at both the Bath and Brighton and Brighton Festivals, as well as being a finalist of the Leicester Mercury's New Comedian of the Year. She could most recently be seen on BBC3's Comedy Marathon and BBC Radio 1's Comedy Lounge.

The gig will be helmed by the “polished, natural comedians” (Camden Fringe Voyeur) DOGGETT & EPHGRAVE. It takes place at The Market Theatre Studio on Thursday 18th February. Doors open at 7:30pm, with the first act on at 8:00pm. Tickets are £11.00, and can be booked in advance at www.mostlycomedy.co.uk.

Date:              Thursday 18th February 2016
Venue:           The Sun Hotel
                       Sun Street
                       Hitchin
                       Hertfordshire
                       SG5 1AF
Time:             Bar open all day. Doors at 7:30pm. First act on at 8:00pm             
Admission:   £11.00, via www.mostlycomedy.co.uk

IYIE #20


We prerecorded Sunday’s In Your Inner Ear tonight at Doggett & Ephgrave HQ (A.K.A. our midget office).

The show's topic was ‘Stupid’. Literally...in the sense that we shared examples of the countless times we’ve seen or done something idiotic (with most of our stories inevitably falling in the latter category). I enjoyed the recording more than last week's show, as I felt more relaxed and in the swing of things, whatever that means.

By the end of the programme, the three of us were laughing uncontrollably, mainly at Glyn’s anecdote about the time he thought he was dying because his hands had turned an unnatural shade of blue. It took a couple of hours of sheer panic - imagining all kinds of ominous symptoms – for him to realise it was just dye that had rubbed off of his new pair of jeans; I’d like to remind you that the man is now a FATHER.

Recording at the office instead of the radio studio is a cozy little arrangement. The room is small, but there are no distractions or interruptions; particularly as we do it in the evening, when the company we share the building with has gone home for the day. The audio quality is better too, which is ridiculous, yet reassuring. It’s surprising what you can achieve with such a basic set-up. Abbey Road Studios can shove it up their 'emergency exit'.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Cat's Eye.


This morning, I was briefly worried a cat would play with my wee.

I should explain this statement, before you think I’m an oddball. I’m cat-sitting for a neighbour this week, who owns two of the grumpiest-looking, yet sweetest cats I’ve seen. I’ve become this friend’s go-to person for feline-feeding, which suits me, as I like any excuse to spend time with my favourite type of animal, and it suits her, as she’s pleased to have someone who’ll keep them company, rather than just throwing a handful of cat-biscuits into a bowl and then sodding off.

Every time I arrive at her flat, one of the cats runs straight for the bathroom and leaps onto the toilet cistern, so she can playfully bat at the water from the tap next to it, should a inferior human accomplice such as me be kind enough to switch it on. I always do, because I’m soft.

The downside to my friend’s flat, however, is a distinct lack of doors. So, when I needed the loo this morning, I faced a quandary. I knew that as soon as I visited the bathroom the cat would follow me (which she did) expecting the usual sink antics (which she did). I could only attempt the damage limitation of turning on the tap before activating my personal plumbing.

The next few minutes were tense. The cat was clearly torn over which water source to opt for. Her judgemental staring eyes made me aware of the lack of privacy; she wasn’t very discreet. I pray she isn’t fitted with a collar camera, as if she is, her owner will face a rude awakening when she returns, in a literal sense.  

Sunday, 14 February 2016

IYIE #19


I listened to this week's In Your Inner Ear when it went out tonight, tweeting relevant pictures and comments along with it like a man possessed. 

It's much easier to do this when the show isn't live, as it gives you a chance to do the job justice. That said, it's still a little frenetic as, even though I know the gist of what was discussed when, something always takes me by surprise.

I wrote here on the day of recording of how I was concerned that the tiredness and incoherence I felt as we did it would show. Thankfully, it didn't. It always surprises me how well the show holds together, even when one or all of us aren't feeling our best. We sound at ease with what we're doing, and keep good pace. It's satisfying to listen back to. I just wish it was getting more exposure, as it's frustrating not knowing if anyone's listening; the cynic in me always assumes that no-one is. 

I had hoped some of the set-pieces I brought up, which started life as blogs, might translate into stand-up. Hearing it back tonight, the jury's out. There's something in them, but they need loosening up; either that, or I need to know the content better, as the combination of part-reading and part-improvising can make them sound a little rushed. 

The show’s still a good outlet. We'll record the twentieth episode on Tuesday, for which I recorded the relevant jingles today. By Wednesday morning there'll be forty hours of us waffling out there in the ether, which is a terrifying thought.