Tuesday, 31 May 2016

In Summary.

...and so another month passes. 

I can't believe it's nearly June. Where does the time go (and all those other such things that old people say)?

May's a key month for me, as both my wife's and my birthday fall within it. It's also when the Brighton Festival takes place, which I usually rock up to; either on my own or with Glyn. It's a month I'm very aware of and never expect to actually be, in the same way a child might think Christmas won't come around. 

I should go to bed, but my cat's sleeping on my lap as I write. She's been a little edgy all day, so I'm loath to move her, now she's finally settled down. She often brings me comfort, so I like to give her comfort too. Having said that, she just yawned and leapt off me in the direction of the kitchen; so much for comfort: she just wants food. 

I should go to bed before it gets late. So long May 2016; you were fair-to-middling. Let's make June a little better, yeah?

Four Legs Good.


I took my wife to The Gate restaurant in Islington yesterday for a birthday treat, and ate enough food to risk a Mr Creosote-like explosion before I left.

The Gate is notable for its – shock horror – solely vegetarian menu, but what a menu it is. Everything was lovely, without a hint of something lacking, like your more staunch meat-eaters might assume. A non-fussy carnivore probably wouldn’t even notice. Either way, it was perfect for pescatarian me and herbivore her, for whom the ability to order anything was a novelty.

It was the first time we'd ever been to a vegetarian restaurant, save a quick lunch in a veggie café in a monkey sanctuary near Looe. It was nothing like the negative mental image it may create (the restaurant; not the zoo). It wasn’t poncy or 'try-hard' and there was plenty of flavour-filled variety. I’d recommend it to everyone, except my mum, who’d struggle, unless she could smuggle in a slab of gammon in her handbag (which she probably carries as a matter of course).

I’d heartily endorse their vegan Eton Mess, which isn't as bleak as it sounds. I tell you what is an Eton Mess: The Government.

(...I’m here all week.)

Monday, 30 May 2016

In Someone - Anyone's - Inner Ear.

Last night's episode of In Your Inner Ear was one of our best, in my opinion, but did anyone hear it?

It helped that we'd recorded a programme a couple of days previously, so we were sufficiently warmed up. We'd made a conscious decision to take our time and be clearer with our delivery, which was an improvement. It's fair to say that twenty-seven episodes in - an impressive feat in and of itself - we've found our groove, resulting in a show that's fun to listen to and fun to do; I just can't help but feel the energy's a little wasted if only a few people tune in.

We have a history of taking on projects with little direct gain. That doesn't mean these things weren't worth doing - we're always learning - but I think we are far better at what we do than our slow-burning career as a double act attests. 

Most of this is due to lack of time and focused effort; if we'd concentrated on one thing, rather than entrepreneurising (is that a word?), we might be more established than we are today. Okay, Mostly Comedy may be successful, but we seem to have somehow sunk into to the background of our own event and become unnoticed (though it couldn't happen without us).  

In Your Inner Ear is different, as it's the one thing we do at the moment that's all about us. We're not hiding behind the big acts we're introducing (like with Mostly Comedy) or interviewing (as with the More Than Mostly Comedy Podcast); we're being funny on our own two (four) feet, which was what working together was all about in the first place.

At least we're getting better at doing it. Imagine how tight we'll be in twenty-seven episodes time. It would just be nice to work up a listenership that's bigger than the amount if episodes we've recorded to date.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Always Look on the Shite Side of Life.


I'm finding meditation invaluable at the moment, when it comes to settling my frantic brain.

Another thing I apply in huge doses is selective deafness. While there have been a lot of positive advances in my work and with my attitude this year, the first half of 2016 hasn’t been without its setbacks. There are plenty of niggles that could overshadow the good stuff if I let them.

Take last week’s run on the Brighton Fringe: on the plus side, it was a huge advancement on the show I wrote and performed there the previous year. My first extended foray into solo stand-up was understandably tentative and careful, whereas this year’s show is already more confident, more varied and – I think – funnier than the one before. I’m prouder and more sure about it, despite my inbuilt and instinctive insecurities with what I do – yet sadly, no-one reviewed it thus far. Consequently, I’m set to enter my first solo Edinburgh Fringe with a couple of scathing reviews still lurking at the top end of my online presence, that aren’t representative of where I’m at.

 At least I’m getting better at ignoring negative thoughts that don’t help my work grow. Another ying / yang experience was this month’s preview at Mostly Comedy. I performed over an hour of new material to a good response considering most people inevitably booked to see the high profile headliner, yet despite holding my own, a cursory glance at social media after the show suggested I hadn't even been there. Such is the curse of not being on the telly (save a couple of adverts back in 2004).

Another thing I can’t think about too much is the effect on my finances. Hence the reason I won’t delve into it in this paragraph; it's selective deafness in action.

Moaning like this doesn’t help; if anything it allows the negativity to linger. It’s good to release the pressure-valve a little, but you don’t want to fixate on the bad stuff. This is where meditation helps; that and ketamine.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Fully Booked.

The past couple of evenings I've walked to my local pub, to sit outdoors with my book and a ginger beer, and take a moment to destress. 

It actually felt like something of a luxury. While I love reading, and tend to always have a book on the go, I'd been going through a faze with my current one, where I'd always start it when I was too tired to take it in; giving in after a couple of pages. 

I'm not always like this. I'll occasionally devour a book in a few quick sittings, but this hasn't been of the case of late, due to my Brighton show prep. Every day, I'd do my best to be brave and tackle it, but I was too sleepy to compute the details. It wasn't grabbing me, as I'd never give it time to draw me in. 

Taking it to the pub garden yesterday in the early evening made the world difference. It suddenly went from a string of seemingly unrelated words to a narrative. Conversely, it also helped my brain to switch off, as I had a story to invest in. 

I wish I had a garden of my own. It's nice just to have a change of scenery. It's also good to not be thinking about my show for a bit. There's only so much time you can spend on stuff like that before you need a break. I'll also go back to it with fresh ears, which will be a (Brucie) bonus.

"You Can't Dust For Vomit"

Tonight, for the third Friday running, I went to London's Prince Charles Cinema on Leicester Square for one of their "beer and pizza" screenings; this week's film was the subtle mockumentary classic 'This is Spinal Tap'

(I'd include the umlaut above the N, if my phone would let me.)

Spinal Tap, like Withnail and I, is infamous amongst the touring actor / musician scene. I'd heard most of the quotable lines long before I'd actually seen it. I can remember my long lost actor friend Richard Doubleday, who I haven't seen in ages, schooling me in how to look up at the flies in disdain as the tiny sign reading 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven' flew in at the end of the show of the same name ,which was my professional debut, in tribute to the Stonehenge sequence. It was unprofessional, but if we hadn't done it, it would have been an opportunity missed. 

It's a strange film to see amongst an audience, as the dialogue's so subtle and overlapping, you could almost blink and miss the jokes. If you weren't in the company of a group of people who know it inside out, that is. It only took a few minutes to relax into the style of it before we were in stitches; a hackneyed way to put it, but no less true.  

The banter and the on-the-road disasters that befall the band is / are alarmingly accurate. It's an affectionate portrayal of a touring rock group, taking in various Beatles, Stones, Kiss and Jeff Beck stylistic references along the way. It's a labour of love, with songs and arrangements that are spot on. 

I did a gig on the same bill as Harry Shearer once. "So, you're the comedy?" he said, as we were introduced; no pressure there then. The most surreal moment was when I picked up his bass to move it on the stage; the same bass I'd seen him play at a Spinal Tap concert at Wembley Arena a few months before; I may be poor, but I've had some interesting experiences. 

Friday, 27 May 2016

Who's Better, Who's Best?

A while ago, I heard Paul McCartney describe the lyric "everybody else is busy doing better than me" from his recent song 'Alligator' in an interview as being a comment on how he'll often look at how his work is perceived in comparison to others and be frustrated by it.

I find this incredibly comforting. If a man who's achieved so much can look at his work and find it wanting, then we're allowed to do it too. It's a part of human nature, magnified by our current Facebook-and-Twitter culture. Everywhere we look, we're confronted by people presenting happier, more contented lives through their social media press releases; smearing Vaseline over the lens before they make their public broadcast. There's someone busy doing better than you, just a mouse-click away. 

I wish I could remove myself from this unnecessary comparison and jealously, and see it for what it is: a falsity. But though I'm aware of all of it, I still do it. It's instinctive

There are things you can do to alleviate this. One way is to step away from the technology. This is why I left Facebook a few years back: coming away from it was better for my health.

This might sound strange from someone who blogs so regularly; how can I keep posting this stuff on the Internet when I want to step away from it? The answer is there's somehow a disconnect in my head; I forget that people might read it. It's also quite cunning, as I can selfishly post outwards, without being presented with anything coming back. 

(Genius.)

There's one thing I'd like to keep in mind: there's no need to take all this compare-and-contrasting so seriously; we're all working in different fields and at different rates, with different start and end points. It's not a race. And if one quarter of the most successful band in history feels he could do better, there's hope for the rest of us...or does it mean we've all barely scratched the surface?

(That's my Jerry Springer Thought for the Day.) 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Doing Nowt.

I didn't really achieve anything today, which is frustrating.

As I intimated yesterday, it's strange to suddenly be in a position where I have less to do, in comparison to the mad panic dash that led to last week's shows in Brighton. That's not to say that I don't have things to be getting on with; I just feel a little purposeless compared to how things were in the last few weeks.

At least I've managed to do more today than my cat. She has recently taken to sleeping on the chair closest to my living room window, after having been completely indifferent to it in previous months - and today, she's only really moved from it to (1) check on the food situation in the kitchen or (2) to pester me for some of what I'm eating. I know cats sleep more than most other species, but her lack of effort for anything has to be seen to be believed. She'd snore if she could muster up the energy.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

"The World is Treating Me Bad: MISERY."


Today, I’m feeling a little despondent.

I often get like this when I’ve finished working on something intensively. I find myself questioning why I did it in the first place and whether it had / has a purpose – so it’s no surprise that I feel this way this week after the frenetic build-up to last week’s Brighton run.

I don’t want my feelings to be misunderstood. I’m very happy with how my new show is shaping up, and feel so much more content with my material and delivery, compared with that of my solo début last year. Working alone for the first time was a huge step I wasn’t sure I was up to back then, whereas now I know I am (or at least that’s how I feel if you catch me on a good day).

Despite my more positive outlook this year, I’m still frustrated with the uphill struggle I find myself in. I had to cancel one of the four dates I’d booked last week due to an insufficient turnout. I’ve also yet to have any reviews surface, which is a pain, as I was hoping for the odd positive comment to give me strength in what I’m doing, as well as to help promote my Edinburgh run. Of course, you could look at this two ways; my assistant / director Steve said the other day that no review is better than a bad review. I know what he means, yet it niggles to have little evidence of the dates that passed, save the financial cost; flyers, venue hire, food, train tickets and taxis home don’t come cheap.

Perhaps I’m being pessimistic. There was  a lot to be gained from the few weeks. I have the beginnings of a show for Edinburgh with two months still in hand. I had a positive reaction to all of the dates so far (save one slightly teeth-pulling one; let's hope you weren’t in the audience for that). I feel like I’m finding a more solid solo voice. I’m just tired of having to do all of the organising and promoting by myself; if a good agent or industry insider were to take a punt and help me out, I’d have something more solid to hold onto: creating your own work can be an evil mistress.

IYIE #27

Tonight, I met with Glyn and Stephen to record Sunday's episode of our radio show In Your Inner Ear, barely minutes (or days) after we committed the last one to tape (or MP3). 

Tonight's show felt considerably less frenetic than the previous one, largely due to us setting an intentionally slower pace. Glyn and I discussed this before Steve arrived; both of us feeling we could afford to sit back on our conversation, rather than racing ahead, as is our habit. We'd both listened to the last episode when it went out - and while we liked it, we were aware of the cross-talk that went on, particularly from the moment Steve joined us, when suddenly there were three people vying for space. Funnily enough, this was something our friend - and regularly IYIE listener - Glen Davies mentioned when we bumped into him immediately before recording.

"I love how you all talk at once," he said. He meant it as a positive, but it's still not what we want. 

It was nice in a way to record this week's episode so close to the previous one, as it made us feel considerably more warmed up. This week's topic of 'Villains" was surprisingly easy to discuss (though I may change my mind when I listen to it back). God knows what we'll end up discussing in the next one; we're rapidly running out of titles to work with; pass the thesaurus. 

Monday, 23 May 2016

I Ain't Afraid of No Ghost (or of No Double Negatives)

Tonight, inspired by the impromptu quiz on Sarah Greene our In Your Inner Ear co-presenter Stephen Halliday set for me during the show that aired this evening (don't ask), I watched the infamous BBC quasi-documentary Ghostwatch. 

I can clearly remember wanting - but not being brave enough - to watch it when it first went out in 1992. I was very into reading about the paranormal as a kid; an interest that was stoked by my one of my mum's friends, who lent me a lot of books on the subject. I think most children go through this stage: seeking out things that terrify them, then wishing they hadn't. It didn't help that the books I borrowed were pretty graphic, and written in the style of enclopedias that were recounting solid fact. 

By the time I started secondary school at Thomas Alleyne in Stevenage, I'd sought out the ghost stories that were connected to it (it opened in 1558, so there were bound to be a few). I used to hang around the building The Grange next door, which was supposed to be haunted, with friends - and even took a couple of pictures of it with my camera, in the hope that something spooky would show up (I foolishly never developed the film: I could be sitting on a ectoplasmic goldmine). The one time we were brave enough to go right up to it, a tile fell off the roof, which we took to be a warning and never went that near again. 

(I have some excellent ghost stories about my drama school, incidentally, which I'll save for another day.)

"But what about Ghostwatch?", I hear you ask. 

While some of the programme was clearly of its time, it's still pretty effective. I can see why it received so many complaints, through perhaps irresponsibly blurring the line between fact and fiction. If nothing else, it paved the way for Ivette Fielding's post-Blue Peter career; Sarah Greene clearly missed out. 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

IYIE #26

This afternoon, for the first time in the best part of a month, we recorded a new episode of 'Doggett & Ephgrave: In Your Inner Ear'. 

It was nice to do a show after a surprisingly long hiatus. The topic for the evening was 'Heroes', which kindly holds the door open for next week's theme, which will be 'Villains". It's nice to be a few steps ahead for once, if only for a couple of days. 

I'm having real trouble concentrating on writing my blog at the moment. I keep starting something late in the day, then trying to stave off sleep as I write it. This is no exaggeration: I literally nodded off during yesterday's post, which is why it made little sense this morning. Today is little better. I've just been overdoing it. Consequently, I could have done without the radio show today, so I could have more time to rest and recuperate. I keep nearly going under during this blog, so I'll keep it briefs (as with Gary Lineker / Leicester / Match of the Day).

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Don't Call Me Shirley.

Tonight, I went to see the classic spoof film Airplane! at the Prince Charles Cinema. 

Ir was a lot of fun. It was great to see it in a live setting, surrounded by a load of people who knew it inside out. It really suited being watched amongst an audience as it's the sort of film that's best enjoyed with other fans. It was reassuring to see how many other people of my age were drawn to the same sort of thing as children, and have memorised it ever since. 

I took Steve with me, as a small thank you for his help with Brighton. It felt like an appropriate gift, as the film was right up both our street. It was a Beer & Pizza night, so it was watched to the sound of much slurping and masticating. Watching the film put me in the mood to watch Airplane II, which is special if only because it features William Shatner; any film with Bill amongst the cast is instantly lifted to classic status.  

Friday, 20 May 2016

Quadrant #4 (Sort of)

It made for an anti-climactic end to my Brighton run to finish with a 'no-show' today. 

Well, technically it was a 'two-show', in the sense that two people turned up to see it (one of whom was a friend), but I wasn't going to put the three of us through such a tense experience. No-one wants to be one side of a comic-punter-punter triangle; it's a lose-lose-lose situation, whichever way you look at it. 

Most frustratingly of all, we managed to fix our ongoing sound issues, so if we'd gone ahead there was a good chance that everything would have worked. I guess that's just the way it goes, though I'd sooner it didn't. I'd also set out to record tonight's show for reference, so it was a shame to have to abandon that too. 

Instead, we made the best of a dissapointing situation by having a quick drink, watching Matt Green's show and then catching the train back to Hertfordshire. Watching the show made for some much needed light relief after such a frustrating end to the day. It's worth going to see; Matt's grasp and attention to detail when using a Keynote presentation was a joy to see; it's used very slickly and creatively, plus the central point of it - an advert Green featured in with Harvey Keitel, along with everything about it -was very amusing. I'm sure once he's settled into a slightly more it will be really very good. WATCH THIS SPACE. 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Quadrant #3

Well, tonight was exciting, though it could have been tragic. 

That may be slightly melodramatic. Nobody died; just my computer, for a bit. I arrived at my venue in Brighton in good time and switched on my Mac, before setting to work at sorting out the sound set-up. I then returned to my laptop to plug it into the projector and the sound desk, to discover an ominous flashing question mark in place of the usual start-up screen. This suggested one of two things: either The Riddler was present, or my computer was buggered. 

Glyn arrived a moment later - he'd come down to assist me, in place of Steve, who wasn't available (not that I wouldn't ask Glyn first) - and together we started to frantically Google in hope of some technological advice. After holding down various keys to no avail, we searched for the nearest Mac Store...and lo and behold, it was just minutes down the road. I rushed to the nearby shopping centre with my Mac under one arm and my wallet poised for imminent damage. 

The people at the Apple Store were fucking brilliant. I'm happy to go on record to that effect, though no-one in their right mind would want to print it. I explained the situation, and how I was supposed to be starting a show in just over an hour, to which they were remarkably accommodating, despite the lack of Genius Bar appointments available; I'll even forgive them for that wanky name

Spin forward to around 5:30pm and I had a call from the Store to say they'd managed to replace the offending lead inside that Mac which had lost connection with the hard drive. The job they did was brilliant and went above and beyond the call of duty; I may even write them in my will. 

As for the show, it was a little frenetic. The audience were quiet but enjoying it. They laughed so quietly as not afford me time to take a sip of water; why can't they cooperate, damn it? All and all it was enjoyable if a little manic. I felt like I was having a breakdown in the corner at their expense. There were laughs but I think the audience felt intimidated by their closeness. Oh well, I wonder what won't work tomorrow? I'll work on the assumption that nothing wiill. I'm willing to put money on it being the legs. Actually, I hope not. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Quadrant #2.

While I enjoyed tonight's show, it was marred slightly by irritating technical problems. 

Well, this was how things felt from the inside looking out; my assistant Steve assured me it was good show and was well received, but it was frustrating to be constantly upstaged by electrical interference and dodgy mic connections getting in the way of the material - and all of this after being very thorough when setting up before to the show 

Slideshow gags rely on precision timing (as poncy and self-serving as that sounds). You need to be able to trigger an audio-visual cue in an instant, without having to go off to adjust a level, or to take out a channel completely if it's interfering with everything else. I couldn't rely on this tonight; I had to keep dipping behind the curtain to the side of the stage to twiddle with knobs (*crass joke*) like a quasi-Wizard of Oz, to make things work. I also had to hold the mic with a specific unnatural grip to prevent it cutting out. This isn't what you want to be focusing on when you're performing, at the expense of everything else. 

I'm being unnecessary negative, to be fair. I had a reasonable-sized house (who I think were mostly the cast of another show, though sadly I didn't get to find out what it was) who were friendly and pretty vocal. They got a little quieter towards the end, though it didn't help that the room was very hot. One guy was nice enough to come up to me afterwards to shake my hand and tell me how much he enjoyed it. It goes to show: a performer's perspective of how a show went isn't always wholly accurate; there endeth the Lesson For The Day.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Quadrant #1.

I enjoyed my first Brighton show tonight. 

I arrived in town at around four-ish, with my (unpaid) assistant Stephen in tow, and made my way to the venue, laden down, as ever, with a mass of equipment. Rather fortuitously, my show is the first on every day, which is great, as it allows more time to wrestle with the - as usual - erratic technical set-up. 

Minutes into the get-in, the comic who's assisting with the running of the space arrived to say the audio desk had blown out a week ago and has yet to be replaced; not the words you want to hear when your show is heavily technically reliant. She was the first to admit that she wasn't hugely tech-savvy, but between us - and with my reasonable sound knowledge (and experience of having to make gear function in a variety of bodged situations) - we managed to get the bare minimum to work. The only setback was the feed from my Mac would every so often emit a horrific foghorn-like sound that vibrated through the whole building, that would stop the moment you ran a cue through it; all this, despite DI-ing it into the desk with a view to eliminating this sort of interference in the first place.

(I'm aware that the above makes for dull reading.)

Consequently, the show went up a tiny bit late, meaning I had to cut the odd bit here and there to make up time. The audience wasn't huge (I had about twelve in), but they were a lovely crowd and very responsive. It was an enjoyably relaxed conversation between me and them, with an overriding feeling that they got where I was coming from and understood my style. They seemed to enjoy when I went 'off-book' the most, which happened a fair amount, what with the occasional foghorn interruption and the football fans chanting outside the venue, who were in town to watch Brighton play in the Championship semi-finals, which was being shown on a big screen at the stadium down the road; I like my shows to correspond with major sporting events.

All in all, it was a promising start. I'm looking forward to doing show #2 tomorrow, safe in the knowledge that the equipment should work; famous last words... 

Monday, 16 May 2016

Tight As.

It's a little soul-destroying when you're about to start a week of traveling not sure how you're going to pay for it. 

So much of being a performer is speculating to accumulate, along with budgeting for something to then get to it somehow unable to afford it. This can even be the case when you're doing the more standard fee-based stuff like touring; however much money you're meant to receive and however better off you're supposed to be after you've done the work never seem to tally. To say this is frustrating would be an understatement.

It's far worse financially when you're working on self-produced stuff, like my stand-up show this week; even when under the helpful umbrella a Free Fringe venue, where the expenses are slashed. You go in with the mindset that just breaking even would be a dream. Then, to top it off, a negative review or a poor turn-out can make you question why you even did it in the first place, if only for a moment. 

i'm sure I'll sort my financial situation out. At least I'm enjoying the show content. I did a couple of runs today and ended the second one feeling pretty happy. There are a couple of less-polished moments, but these are the things that can only be fixed by doing it...so do it I will. Provided I can afford to get to Brighton, that is. 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Toilet Training.

I was just rushed out of a train toilet cubicle, because I was apparently taking too long. 

Well, I say I was rushed out; in fact I wasn't. I stood my ground (except for being seated). I'd never realised there was a time limit. I hadn't been in there long before I heard the sound of a drunk impatient passenger waiting outside, with clearly the more important bladder of the two of us. He couldn't believe that someone else might need to use the facilities. After all, they'd been laid on for him. This man was the centre of the universe; when God needs to go, he needs to go. 

Suddenly, the heat was on. This man had the full range of subtle tactics at his disposal. First came the single door-kick. Then the repeated hammering with his fists, closely followed by the shouted "Hurry up". This chap was a credit to society. If I weren't for the wood (or plastic?) between us, I would have kissed him on the lips. 

The only thing he hadn't reckoned on was my personal pent up fury. I'd already had to fight my way through a sea of Saturday night out-on-the-town public, with as much sense of spacial awareness as a toddler mid-sugar-rush. Past Me would have ignored it. Present Me didn't. I made my anger clear on my exit, to an ignorantly toned repeated "Shut up...shut up". At least no-one else witnessed it. 




Friday, 13 May 2016

Bonanza.

My dad told me today that my nan would have been 100 this weekend if she were still alive. 

This seems hard to fathom; it certainly beats my personal milestone of turning 35. My nan was a lot of fun and we were very close. I have quite a few vivid memories of her, despite her passing away when I was very young. I used to follow her around her house and she used dote on me and encourage my creative whims. I was a big fan of Rod Hull & Emu at the time and desperately wanted an emu of my own (in a puppet sense), so she helped me make one, using a sparkly sequined blouse for the body and a pair of tights for the neck and head. It was surprisingly effective despite our limited means, and did the trick until my parents tracked down a proper puppet, which I think came from a friend (Bernie Clifton?). She also helped me finish off all of the chocolates from my advent calender in just one sitting; she was a bad, yet playful influence. 

It's all about anniversaries at the moment. Tomorrow, I'll be half my mum's age and consequently the same age she was when she had me. Does this illustrate my official transition into a real adult? It doesn't feel like it, but it could be. In five years I'll be 40, which seems too surreal to think about. If I want to make the same culturing impact as John Lennon, then I need to get a wiggle on. I wonder if there's much call for a chocolate-stuffing emu act?  

Late Night Debrief.

All in all, I'm very happy with how tonight's preview went. 

I feel there's the essence of an outline of a show forming from all the bits and pieces I'm trying out. I still struggle with trusting that things are funny, so can race over potential laughs, but that's par for the course when you're not actually sure where those laughs are yet. You've got to run the show in first, before you learn what you can take more time over.  

I'm proud of myself for sustaining an hour of material in front of audience that were clearly there for the 'headliner', safe in the knowledge that the vast majority of the material is so very new. Dare I say it, I'm also starting to enjoy it. It's more my cup of tea than last year's show - and now I've taught myself that I don't need to try so hard to be different from what I do with Glyn, I'm starting to enjoy myself more . It's official: projection is allowed. 

...I sign off now, as it's late, and I'm falling asleep as I type. Night night, Internet. Night night. 

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Bring it On.

I'm in the slightly strange position of quite looking forward to tomorrow's work-in-progress set at Mostly Comedy. 

In many ways, things are stacked against my favour. It's a nigh-on certainty that the majority of people will have booked to see the other, higher-profile act. That's the way it works these days, now the club grown into such a name-filled event. The crowd will often differ heavily from one month to the next, as new punters are lured in by TV names. You could say it's a victim of its own success, though I wouldn't entertain that thought for long. I'm proud of what it's become - though it's a shame it can sometimes be harder for us as hosts, having to combat against the obvious gulf between being the familiar and the unfamiliar face (even on your home turf).

(Though we still have a handful of staunchly loyal followers.)

The gig hasn't sold as well as the last few dates, or the next two coming up, which is inevitable when half of the show is devoted to a lesser-known like me. That's okay. I just hope the people who've booked are aware of what they're coming to see, and know they're going to watch me for an hour before they get to see the other act. I'm the starter / main course and she's the dessert (in terms of running order, at least.)

That's enough negativity for now. I'm encouraged by where the show's at for this stage and am looking forward to getting in front of an audience tomorrow, after having spent so much time in a room on my own, talking to myself. I've been able to manage my time quite efficiently over the last few days, which I partly put down to all the meditating I've been doing. It's created more brain space and made my runs more focused. I've started to enjoy myself again and have got a bit of a buzz about doing it. There's a chance tomorrow will be bitty; people might be confused by the looseness or the length of my set, but I'll know I'll still take a lot from doing it, while resting assured in the fact I still have two months to go before Edinburgh, plus next week's shows to get my teeth into. At least with the Brighton dates people will be coming specifically to see me, rather than me being a barrier between them and the 'one from the telly'; don't they know I appeared in an AA commercial once?

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Good Day, Good Day.

I left the office today, feeling happy with how my show's shaping up. 

I'm under no illusions that Thursday's work-in-progress set won't be rough around the edges. I'm also fully aware that the show I take to Brighton next week will be markedly different from what I take to Edinburgh...but that's okay. It's all part of the process. I'm looking forward to having a four-night run next week to play with the material and see what works, safe in the knowledge that I still have two months after Brighton to chop and change what I've got, to tailor it to Edinburgh. The results in the meantime should at least be entertaining, as they were when I performed 'Work in (Hope of) Progress' in Bath. 

One positive upshot of putting together my set is I enjoy performing the material so much more than last year's show, even at this early stage. The content is a lot more playful than '...and Ephgrave' and takes in a greater variety of subjects. I've also released myself from my bizarre self-imposed rule to avoid using excessive projection out of concern that the results would be 'too Doggett & Ephgrave'. I now realise doing this is ridiculous, as it's the style I'm most familiar with and is probably what I do best. I like having something to work off of - be it a slideshow, a guitar, or performing with my double act partner. It gives me strength and a spark of energy that drives things along. Also, why avoid referencing something that 50% me, that people aren't even aware of on a wider level? To do so is to work against yourself and create unnecessary barriers. Doing stand-up alone is still relatively new to me, but I might as well use the experience I've had of working with other people - like my band and Glyn - than try too hard to avoid what's essentially myself. To quote a song by my favourite scouser: " I go back so far, I'm in front of me"; I'm not even referring to Paul Hollywood. 

Monday, 9 May 2016

Pretty in Pink.


At the risk of sounding twee, I love all the blossom that’s about at the moment.

(That’s right: I love every single bit of it.)

When I walked into town today, I made the conscious decision to pay attention to it. I took a longer route in fact, through the cemetery, so I’d see more of it. There’s a vast multitude of colour around at this time of year, if you make an effort to look out for it – and on a sunny day like today it has even more impact; fields, gardens, parks and roadsides across the UK are awash with white, blue and pink. It lifts the mood, like a flora-based antidepressant (as in vegetation; not margarine.)

There's a tree near my house that's in full bloom. It only ever lasts a week or so before the wind does away with it, but those few days are worth it. In life, sometimes the simplest things are the best. I'll be off now to skip and dance around it; I knew I shouldn’t have smoked that jazz cigarette.




Sunday, 8 May 2016

Why Eye Oughta.

Yesterday, I spent twenty minutes incapacitated in Wilko car park because I had a bit of grit in my eye; I sometimes wish the ground would swallow me up.

The Theatre of Conflict.
The most annoying part, besides the grit, was the fact I’d made a conscious decision to leave my bag in the office rather than take it with me, which I’d otherwise always do. If I’d taken it, I would have had a bottle of water and some tissues with which to construct an ad hoc eyewash. Instead, all I could do was rub it (my eye, that is); blinking constantly while tugging at my eyelid.

I genuinely felt trapped. I couldn’t go in the shop without looking strange, and I couldn’t stay where I was without seeming suspicious. I ended up walking to the far end of the car park to where I’d be almost out of sight, but this only made things weirder. Every so often, someone would come out of shop's exit and walk past at me; keeping a fully-functioning eyeball trained on my definite questionability.

It was so bad, I briefly considered phoning my wife to see if she could pick me up, before remembering I’d also left my mobile at the office. There was nothing I could do but keep jabbing at my sclera (Google it), in the near-vain hope that the little piece of dust would fuck off.

After what seemed an eternity, it cleared, enabling me to reach my budget shopping destination, where I made a beeline for the mirror section. I looked like a massive narcissist. Thank God I’m not part-gorgon; if I were, there would have been no way to check it.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Busy Billy.

Tonight, I went to see Bill Bailey at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage, which was unsurprisingly a joy (primarily for the first bit).

I've only seen him live once before, at a cosy work-in-progress show at the Menier Chocolate Factory, with me and my wife sitting practically in the front row. He seemed a little flu-filled that night and keen to keep his head down and get through it, whereas tonight he was on sparkling form. It was inspiring to watch; he's the best by a long chalk.  

Today was personally useful too, as Broadway Baby shared an interview to promote my Brighton run. Hopefully it will help encourage an audience; either way, it made me feel more positive about it.

Here it is; read on.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Henning, Hen-out, Hen Shake-it-all-about.


Tonight’s Mostly Comedy was one to be proud of.

First off, with Hattie Hayridge and Henning Wehn on the bill, we had an exceptional line-up. You’re off to a good start when you play host to familiar faces; more-often-than-not, an audience feels most comfortable when the people they're watching have form and a television presence; such is the nature of promoting comedy – but the atmosphere can go through the roof when those acts are on top form, like they were tonight.

It was probably the one date in Mostly Comedy’s 2016 diary that made us most tense, what with the difficult task of moving a sold-out audience en mass from Henning’s originally scheduled appearance last month. Ticket holders had four weeks to decide whether they’d like to stay with the April date or switch to the new one, before the event went on public sale. Thirty people did nothing before the deadline, which made us paranoid they hadn’t seen the message (well: the numerous messages, by email, social media and in the local press); those thirty tickets were quickly snapped up, meaning they wouldn’t have been able to attend if they'd turned up, expecting to be let in.

Thankfully, it wasn’t a problem in the end. Only two people made this mistake, who we managed to squeeze in. This was a relief, as I’d envisaged a riot, with us having to erect a Les Miserables-style barricade.

It was pleasing on a personal level too, as I tried out a snippet of new material that has promise, and made a second stab at something I’d only performed once before that had previously died on its arse. I’d suspected this was mostly to do with an older crowd who’d come specifically to see an older headliner (who shall remain nameless), and consequently weren’t prepared to listen to routines from an act they don’t know. It had a much better response tonight, which bodes well for when I tighten it up.

All in all, the gig was pretty slick. I took a moment to look around the room during Henning’s set, and felt a swell of pride what Mostly Comedy's become. It’s pretty incredible for something we’d set up largely by accident. As I’ve said before, we run a comedy club by mistake.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

How Do You Do It?

Today, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to make the Mac-based slideshow software Keynote do something that PowerPoint does very easily. 

(If the above sentence doesn't pique your interest, nothing will.)

I switched to Keynote a few years back when I bought my MacBook; Glyn and I have been using it to run our slideshows ever since. For the most part, it's user-friendly, but - like with all computer technology - there's always some little bug or other that gets on your wick. I've lost count of the times a simple task took hours to complete, because some link in the chain wasn't working as it should; if I ever meet the person who devised Apple's infamous colour wheel, I'll punch them square in mush. 

All I wanted was for an MP3 to trigger on one slide and then continue under the following slides as I flick through them. Then, when I realised you can only do this on Keynote if the audio file starts at the beginning of the presentation, I tried to record a segment of the slide show that would skip from one slide to another whilst staying in time with the music. Each time I watched it back, it would be slightly out of sync. In the end I had to preempt the transition between each slide so it stayed in time. Finally, I spent longer than I'd hoped trying to export the recording to QuickTime with the audio intact and then embed the video into another slideshow to be run at tomorrow's Mostly Comedy. The question is, will all this time spent make the resulting material any funnier? The answer is NO. Still, at least I get paid for it.

Hang on a minute...

Bank Holiday Aftermath.

I decided not to go to tonight's meditation class so I could free up some time to work on my show, but ended up using it to complete an email-based interview for an online listing site, which should help promote it. I'm glad I got it done quickly (I only received the questions today); it's good to strike while the iron's hot, plus I can start tomorrow on a fresh slate, rather than having to concern myself with admin. 

Today's been busy, taking in a meeting to discuss a possible extra venue for Mostly Comedy to take on in the New Year - more details to follow - and a spot of dog-walking for my mum with my wife, and a visit to Kwik Fit to have a tire changed (on my wife's car; not on me). I've also managed to squeeze in good forty minutes plus of meditation, which has been invaluable for settling my mind in the midst of all the show-looming freneticism. Seeing my mum's dog helped too, as he's a good antidote to stress. I'm fully aware that today's blog post is a little basic, but as with yesterday, I'd sooner keep it brief, so I can be fresher for my show prep. The reader's loss will be the audience-member's gain. My apostrophe use is correct, as I'm not expecting a big crowd; I know my place on the comedy food chain. 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Double Dare

I'm going to keep today's post brief, as I've just started reading a new book, and as my brain's a bit frazzled from thinking about my Brighton show, it could do with the time off. 

So tonight, in lieu of a fleshed out blog, I'd like to raise a small point: is it me, or has Peter Simon into a latter-day Jason Donovan? 


I took the screen grab of the Simon / Donovan hybrid hosting a show on the shopping channel Bid TV a couple of years ago, and every so often I return to it and marvel at their similarities. It's bizarre, as if it weren't for what I've seen with my own eyes, I would never have made the visual connection. It's uncanny. 

I, for one, don't want to see his 'flash outlet'. 

Out and About.

Tonight, I met my friend (and our In Your Inner Ear co-presenter) Steve, for one of our infamous Old Man Pub Crawls. 

The embarrassing thing about our OMPCs these days is the skant amount of alcohol. Steve had two, or possibly three Ginger Grouse, while I had just the one. What's become of us? We used to at least make a vague attempt at insobriety; now, a mix of medication and sensibleness ensure that any versions of the demon drink barely pass our lips; we've fully embraced the 'old man' part of the Old Man Pub Crawl summation. 

While I didn't really feel in the mood to go out tonight, after making the effort, I had a good time. We have a habit of making similar jokes and finishing off each other's ideas, which is an unsurprising byproduct of knowing each other for so long. It like the result of some sort of scientific experiment; we just need another person with a slightly different upbringing to act as the control. 

Our conversation went off on a variety of tangents tonight, taking in Prince, Johnny Cash and Bernie Clifton along the way. At one point, we were discussing the recent Mostly Comedy line-ups, and Mark Morriss' visit, when we both had a collective blank on the name of The Bluetones' debut LP; embarrassingly referring to it as The Peacock Album, like a fowl-based  White Album. I've since remembered it's called Expecting to Fly. The frustrating thing is I know Steve won't stumble across this remembrance, on account of his not 'having' the Internet. That's okay; the passing on of this piece of (largely obvious) trivia can wait.