Sunday, 31 July 2016

Press Release Me, Let Me Go.


With my Edinburgh show just about as nigh as nigh can be, it seems as good a time as any to post the lion’s share of the press release for it, save my credits (which can be found to the right of this page, should you feel the need to be 'impressed').

This was compiled with the assistance of my PR for my trip north of the border, Milla Jackson. It’s the first time I’ve taken on someone to help with the promotion of one of my shows, as Glyn and I have always approached this massive undertaking by ourselves, arguably spreading ourselves too thin. It will be nice to largely hand over this task this time around, though being a bit of a control freak, it will feel a little strange as well. That said, approaching my first solo EdFringe seems as good an occasion to do it, as it would create unnecessary stress. I may use this newly acquired downtime to take up badminton. Then again, I mayn’t.

The back-end of comedy duo Doggett & Ephgrave for longer than he can remember, David Ephgrave is flying solo at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe and turning the spotlight on himself in Mostly David Ephgrave.

Don’t worry, he hasn’t heard of David Ephgrave either.

"David Ephgrave is as smooth as they come."
BBC

Over the last three years, David has been writing a daily blog on the advice of workaholic Richard Herring, to turn the day-to-day minutiae into a powerhouse of creative inspiration. He discovered that by challenging himself to write one entry every single day, he has inadvertently revealed an obsession for the small things that crop up in everyday life. In his show this year, David explores whether we’re all preoccupied and enraged by the same life details, or, if not, whether he can start a misfit revolution to make sure we are. (It’s not OCD – although that would scan better alphabetically.)

"Ephgrave is a very likeable standup, confident but not cocky, and a lot of fun to spend time with...He's a natural entertainer."
View From The Gods

Part TED talk, part stand-up, David uses his laser pointer and PowerPoint to navigate us through the awkwardness of blocked toilets in bed & breakfasts, racist taxi drivers and funeral procession faux pas; revealing an unhealthy fascination with overheard conversations, the length and breadth of Dale Winton's patience, and the rebranding of Clinton Cards.

His warm and confident comedic style, combined with a just about healthy injection of self-deprecation, and an eye for the bizarre, sinister and downright ridiculous guarantees an hour of playful conversation meets pent up fury that will have you in stitches – and wondering, can a Gorgon check in a mirror if they’ve got something in their eye?

Saturday, 30 July 2016

"Thank you, Letchworth."

Tonight's preview at the Broadway Studio and Gallery was the best that I could wish for, giving me the bit of oomph I need to send me on to Edinburgh. 

For the first time, the show started to make sense as a whole, and I got an idea of how to pitch it. You'd think I'd know this already, being that I wrote it, but it's surprising how that isn't the case. A lot of the show started life in this blog, which is obviously a different format to a performance, and there are certain aspects in the putting together of a stand-up show that can only be realised and finalised in front of an audience. Tonight, I had the luxury of a roomful of people (literally; it was busy and everything) who for whatever reason were just the right group I needed to be able to walk the line between concentrating on what was written and what wasn't, and what still needs tying together and what doesn't. 

The room itself was a strong one for stand-up, despite being in the early stages of a refit and having a basic tech set-up. It helped that Glyn was there to assist and that the creative programmer was there too, with whom we have a good relationship, and who trusted us to get on with it and set it up how we needed it. While it was a fun room to play, it was nice to know that it would be the last time I'd need to go into a space, laden with equipment in a variety of suitcases and carrier bags - and have to turn it into a workable venue; once I get to Edinburgh and do my technical rehearsal and my first few previews I'll have the relative luxury of always doing the show in the same space, with technical support. I just want to keep hold of the feeling I had in my head tonight when things started to click into place, and not be too perturbed or intimidated by being back at the Festival on my own. As wanky as it may sound, I need to take control of my room for the hour of my show and make my stamp on it. At least tonight's show made me feel I can do it, and that was thanks to a terrific audience. Would it be impractical to ship them up to Scotland with me? 

Friday, 29 July 2016

Water Poetic Night.

Shock! Horror! Tonight's preview had an audience!

It was so nice to perform to a roomful of people (stretching that definition a little) who were up for comedy and were there to enjoy it and have a good time (something it's easy to forget along the way). Their reaction was warm and inclusive and they were more than happy to go with me on the various twists and turns of a nearly-but-not-quite-actually-yet-put-together-show. 

The set-up was aided by the fact I'd been to the venue a couple of weeks ago for the cancelled 'with Phil Kay' gig. This enabled me to streamline the equipment I took, making my journey comparatively luxurious. I still got a taxi from King's Cross, as this was far easier than wrestling with the tube. Despite the simple route in and a straightforward set-up, I still got a little stressed, through doing it on my own; at which point my wife arrived (with a few of the props I couldnt manage) and helped do the last few bits and pieces, while I popped out to get some food, meditate and put my brain into some semblance of order for the show. 

While the majority of tonight felt pretty slick, there are still a few things I'd like / need to fix. I'm a little concerned that some of the material on racism could be misconstrued. There's a definite change in tone that I'd like to address, though I think it's more of a case of framing the stories more carefully so the detail is clear. I look forward to fixing this in rehearsals (he said ironically). 

I shared the bill with Sam Fletcher, who's a lovely guy and a joy to watch. His show is full of glorious stuff; check It out, Y'all. I'm not sure why I'm affecting a Texas drawl; probably because it's late. 



Thursday, 28 July 2016

Jazzy Blast From the Past.

The Film Night Theme has been the underscore of my day. 

I downloaded it this afternoon to use as the soundtrack to a new bit I was thinking of adding to tomorrow's preview, and it only took one listen for it to take root in my head. Even as I watched an old episode of The X Files tonight, its jaunty jazz piano strains completely usurped the programme's moody synth strings. I almost expected Barry Norman's voice to strike up over it, offering Mulder & Scully a critique. 

While I could do without the earworm, trying out the piece of material it underscores gave the rushed run I did at the end of the day a bit of a jolt that saw me through to the end. Again, it's been a day where endless admin overshadowed the meat and potatoes of actual show-prep. 

This afternoon, I went to look at the space where I'm doing my final preview in Letchworth on Friday. It's an intimate room that should work well, keeping things pleasingly low-key. I just hope I get an audience. Sales have been slow, though this wasn't helped by the fact the ticket link wasn't on the venue's website until Monday; with me, there always a spanner in the works. Before that, I have tomorrow's free show in London to contend with. Sam Fletcher's also on the bill, previewing his Edinburgh show, which I'm looking forward to seeing. You should come yourself; two comics for the price of none is not to be sniffed at.  

 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Channelling Ted Glen.

Today has been about logistics. 

It's now exactly a week to the day that I travel up to Edinburgh. This decampment has snuck up on me like a...thing that sneaks up on you...a velocirapter? That'll do. 

One of the biggest stumbling blocks I'm coming up against is how to get everything I need to Scotland when I'm travelling alone. In the past, I've always gone up in a hired vehicle with Glyn, with the boot and backseat packed to the hilt with luggage and equipment. That's not an option this time, as I don't drive. Consequently, I'm trying to streamline the amount of stuff I take with me, while aware that there are certain things that have to get there; by hand or by courier; by hook or by crook.

It doesn't help that the space I'm in doesn't have a projector and screen rigged. Last week, I ordered a new projector as ours finally gave up the ghost at my preview at The George, after eight years of good service. The new one made its debut at last week's Mostly Comedys to a proverbial standing ovation from Glyn and me. Today, I ordered a new screen, as our touring one has long been falling apart. I now have to hope that it arrives in Hitchin when it's due (on Friday), so I can check it works and ship it to Scotland for next week. 

I've also been chasing up press admin, which is something I'd sooner not be doing at the eleventh hour, when I should be working on the show. All my plans to use the last few gigless days to finetune the show have gone for nothing, thanks to all this last-minute organisation. On top of this, I'm waiting for an advert I submitted a few days ago asking for flyerers to go live, so I can employ someone to do this for me. None of these things make me funnier, but if they make my time in Edinburgh less stressful and more productive, it will be worth it. I wonder if I can have the end of my show written by algorithm?

Monday, 25 July 2016

University Challenged 2016/17: Volume 3 (25.07.16)


While I know I probably shouldn’t stoop to this level, every week I find myself switching on University Challenge, and settling down for a spot of low-level Twitter bullying.

I know it’s not acceptable to be like this to any group of people, thought that said, it can be a lot of fun. It goes some small way to redress the balance between their high and my slightly lower intellect.

Here are today’s tweets. I promise I’m quite a nice chap in person, so don’t judge me.

Liverpool Vs. Warwick.
8:02pm: Kurek is channelling the character Harry Enfield used to do in the opening credits of Harry Enfield & Chums.

8:05pm: Van's follicles are so potent, his hair grows while you watch.

8:06pm: Van was created in a laboratory.

8:06pm: Kurek owns a sex dungeon.

8:10pm: Van modelled his look on Sully from Monsters Inc.

8:11pm: Paxman's still rocking that middle-aged woman's hairstyle look.

8:13pm: ...and so the deadly murderous double act of Kurek and Van was born.

8:14pm: Kurek and Van are the modern-day Keymaster and Gatekeeper.

8:16pm: Kurek is Niles Crane's secret evil twin.

8:18pm: After the recording, Kurek & Van lured the other contestants, crew & audience to their secret Industrial Area lock-up.

8:21pm: I'd like to see the equation calculating the likelihood of Van's hair and knitting pattern combination.

8:22pm: The dog in the final painting looked like Van.

8:23pm: I used to know a girl called Sarah Tonin.

8:23pm: Warwick's Van would like to lure you into his van.

8:25pm: Kurek comes to us, thanks to Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation.

8:27pm: Kurek's favourite 'Allo Allo!' character is Herr Flick.

8:27pm: Van gets wider while you wait.

8:29pm: After the recording, Kurek staved everyone's head in with that brick.

Done and Dustyed.

I'm finding myself sucked in by a documentary about Dusty Springfield on BBC4, when I really should be going to bed. 

It's a programme I've seen before, possibly around the time it was first shown in the late Nineties (around the time when Elton John's hair was its finest bowl shape), yet despite being vaguely familiar, I'm still drawn in, largely due to the wonderful tone to her voice, her effortless performances and the 1960s backdrop, which plays firmly into my court; I was born in the wrong era. 

I'll keep it brief, but the documentary has reminded me of a specific memory I have of my second professional acting job, touring in the Bill Kenwright show 'The Roy Orbison Story'. One of the songs I had to play on the piano in the show was the epic quasi-Bond-like 'I Close my Eyes and Count to Ten', which has a ridiculously overblown exposing introduction. I only had a week to learn the whole musical (which also incorporated playing Please Please Me on a left-handed bass in the guise of my hero Paul McCartney -  but that's another story), but much of that week was taken up with playing the piano intro to myself again and again at any given moment. 

Even when I'd got it down, it never stopped being tense. It's one of those octave-based pieces where, one false move and you switch from Liberace to Les Dawson. The piano was set far upstage-right opposite the drummer stage-left (who was a legend in his own right, having been in the groups 10CC, Pilot and the Alan Parsons Project to name a few), and every night when I got it right, he'd give me a wink and mime a wipe of the brow as if to say "You got away with it" , or a smile if I fluffed a note, that was just as supportive; he was a nice bloke, after all.

Whoever played it on the original record got of lightly as they probably only ever had to do it once. 

Saturday, 23 July 2016

You and You and Me.

Tonight, I previewed my Edinburgh show to two people; well, three if you count my wife, who's already seen it enough to be my understudy.

Thankfully they were a nice couple, who didn't seem too intimidated by the prospect of being eyeballed by a comic for an hour. I'd usually not perform to less than five or six, or more than one group at the very least - any less and it switches from a performance to a hostage situation - but I've cancelled so many previews in the past few weeks, that I wasn't going to let the chance to do a proper run pass me by; particularly after carrying all the necessary gear to London to do it. 

The lead-up to the show was all kinds of disastrous. Before leaving Hitchin, I discovered that the screw thread of the hole on the base of mine and Glyn's new projector is smaller than the screw you use to attach it to our tripod, rendering the tripod useless. I had an hour to get to Argos to buy a new one (which didn't fit either) and then phone my friend Paul to ask I'd I could borrow the new (and hefty) projector stand he'd bought for Mostly Comedy, and pick it up from the venue. This put paid to rehearsing the show before I left for London. I went to wash my hands on the way out of the office; squirting soap on them before realising the water supply had been switched off because of a leak; such is the life and times of an Ephgrave. 

Thankfully, the show was useful. I could do with more previews than the two I have left, but at least I have a few days to tweak the material before the next show on Thursday. I'd like it to be as tight as possible for Friday's final gig before I leave for rainy Scotland. Fingers crossed. 

Friday, 22 July 2016

Mostly Two in a Row.

There was a point during tonight's Mostly Comedy when I turned to Glyn, who was sitting behind me and said - in reference to the club as a whole - "How on Earth did this happen?"

I didn't mean it in a literal sense; I knew how the gig took place on a nuts and bolts level. It was more a question of what fortuitous chain of events resulted in the club growing to the size and status it has in a relatively short space of time. 

When you look back on its story as a whole, and our various leaps and punts along the way, it's really quite extraordinary. We met a handful of acts very early on who've all gone on to great things, which helped us secure bigger and better line-ups. We've played host to a number of stars who are currently in their ascendancy, along with a fair few old favourites. When you consider that our first show was mainly made up of school and drama school friends on the bill, the logistics just don't tally. We shouldn't have such a vast array of well-known acts playing an event we largely set up on a whim; I'm so concerned as to how this happened that I may have to speak to someone about it.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Tiredavid #2

Sometimes, inevitably, doing stand-up can be disillusioning.

Tonight, personally, was one of those nights. We had the first of our two-day stretch of Mostly Comedys at the Sun Hotel in Hitchin, and for some reason, I couldn't quite get in my stride. Somehow, everything seemed a little confusing. My set with Glyn went reasonably well at the beginning, but even that - which was our tried-and-tested hand shadows routing- fell a little flat. Then to compound things, I did a short solo set after the interval, which somehow didn't figure on anyone's RADAR.

I'm going to sign off tonight, as I'm ridiculously tired. I said this the other day and it still applies. Bye bye for now.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Tiredavid.

Tonight, I had a really nice night off. 

I met with my friend Stephen for a drink and a catch-up which, while inevitably touching on the subject of the Edinburgh Festival and my recent cancelled previews, wasn't overshadowed by it. While i've still got so much to do, primarily on an administrative level, I can't spend every second thinking of it; I'm entitled to a bit of a break. 

The best part of the evening was when we sat in Hitchin's town square (confusingly called the Market Place) enjoying tapas outside the Pitcher & Piano, at the point when the heat wasn't so unbearable as to be uncomfortable. It was at that moment that I briefly felt like I was on holiday in some far-flung location, rather than in he centre of a Hertfordshire town. It was the first time we'd met for one of our mythical OMPCs (or 'Old Man Pub Crawls') since Stephen has become a Hitchin resident. Even though he'd often give me a lift home on his way to Stevenage, it was strangely pleasing to not have him do this, and to know that he's finally achieved wanted he wanted for so long. I hope it works out for him. 

Like most evenings this week, I've come home first feeling completely exhausted. I'm actimely fighting off sleep as I type and struggling to keep it at bay. I don't know why I've been so openly exhausted in the last few weeks, but I hope it will pass a bit in the next couple of days. 

Monday, 18 July 2016

King of the Swingers.

While the downside of tonight was having to cancel my preview at The Etcetera Theatre, at least I had a go on King's Cross' massively oversized swing. 
 
 
Who cares that the 'show that wasn't' cost £200 at a conservative estimate. It doesn't matter that each preview that doesn't happen makes me marginally less prepared for my Edinburgh Fringe run. Tonight, I got to do my best impression of a human pendulum in front of scores of frustrated commuters, held back by severe delays; for a moment I was King of the World. It took every ounce of self control to resist the urge to leap from it mid-swing, holding out my arms like an Olympic gymnast. I've half a mind to find more enormous playground rides and have a go on them.
 
Setting up for tonight.
In reality, cancelling tonight was hugely frustrating; not least because I had to book and pay for an emergency technician to step in to run my show, as I didn't think my wife would be able to get there on time from work to do it. The Etcetera's a room that's perfect for my stuff, but it's no good without an audience to watch it. I did have one friend come along, but you can't perform stand-up one-on-one. I should have invited him back to King's Cross with me; at least then he could have given me a push.

Hot Pit Pony.

Today is not the day to be lugging equipment into London, and yet here I am, lugging equipment into London. 

Thankfully, I've not got as much gear as I've been carrying on my last couple of trips, as the place I'm playing tonight has a proper technical set-up. Despite this, I've still probably got more on me than is strictly necessary, just in case something doesn't work along the line

To add to today's sweatbox situation, I'm currently on a train that's being held at Hitchin, due to a fire at King's Cross signal box, with no chance of us leaving until the signal box is restaffed. Thankfully, there's just the amount of aircon to save us from being cooked in our juices; frankly a relief, as we've already been here for twenty minutes. 

I did a quick run of my show this afternoon to aid tonight's performance, though I did it at a friend's flat for a change of scenery, as I'm cat-sitting for them this week. The cat gave nothing away as to her thoughts on my performance, but she has a naturally grumpy face, so it wouldn't be the fairest judgement.

Two minutes have past since my last-but-one paragraph and we're still at Hitchin Station. I hope we won't be here for much longer; I have to be at the theatre in time for a swift get-in at 6pm for a 6:30pm start. If we don't get a move on, that swift get-in will have to be all the swifter. At least I'm not carry a lot of equipment into...oh. 

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Another No-Show.

Sadly, tonight's preview was cancelled, as only one person turned up. 

It was a shame, as the Water Poet has the perfect set-up for the show. There's a projector rigged, and the room (The Cellar Bar) is lovely. It was strange to be in control of the space, when I've been there so many times to do open mic spots. If nothing else, it will make me feel more comfortable next time I'm doing that; I'll stroll in with my best Gallagher swagger, issuing demands left, right and centre (or not, as the case may be). 

In some senses, not doing the show was a blessing and not a curse. I had a late night last yesterday and didn't sleep well, so I wouldn't have been at my best. That said, I was hoping to use tonight to whittle down the running time to a tight hour for Monday's preview at The Etcetera Theatre, which can't overrun as there's a show immediately after it. I started doing a run-through, but it felt too weird, as my wife would've had to sit through it for the second night running, and the bar staff would have felt forced to laugh, so I abandoned it. This also gave us more time to pack down so we could get an earlier train back. 

The biggest pain was having to bring so much gear with us, to then have to take it all back for nothing. We got a taxi from King's Cross to Liverpool Street (using the spoils from last night's charitable on-the-door donations to pay for it) and then a tube and train back, all for the craic. I'm adopting a selective deafness to the amount of money I'm spending in the lead-up to Edinburgh; before long, I'll be selling my vital organs at a meat raffle.

The other frustrating thing was having to cancel Phil Kay. I hate doing this, as he'd kept the date free in his diary, but he was very good about it. I was looking forward to seeing him too. It was annoying, as the gig should have done well with him on it, but we were probably scuppered by a hot day and the fact the flyers I'd ordered to promote it arrived so late. At least today's expenses were tax deductible, but I'd rather have done another show into the bargain; you don't become a performer for financial gain. 

Old Haunts, New Material.

Tonight's preview was very useful. 

It felt bizarre to be back in a space I knew so intimately, after so long. Tonight's venue was The George in Hitchin, which was where Mostly Comedy started life back in October of 2008. While I'd only been in their upstairs room once since our final gig there in July 2010, in many ways it was like I'd never been away. The moment I had my biggest flashback, strangely, was when I went to the loo; as I stood in the cubicle I remembered the countless times I'd hidden there before shows, frantically going over whatever the Hell I was about to talk about. Happy memories. 

The show went well, with a small yet nice crowd who weren't perturbed in the face of an hour of work-in-progress, despite being reasonably well-lit themselves and being eyeballed by me throughout. My one mistake was getting repeatedly drawn into conversation with a man in the front row, who I could never quite tell was enjoying the show or not. He kept reacting animatedly, which I used, forgetting the rest of the audience couldn't see his face. It was funny at first, but I would probably have been better served if I'd let it go a little earlier in the show. 

Over all, things start are starting to flow; something both Glyn and our In Your Inner Ear co-host Stephen attested to, despite any of my misgivings. The end's a little sketchy at the moment, but it's starting to take shape. I know the route it needs to go. The string of previews ahead should help this solidify. All in all, it was a good night. 




Thursday, 14 July 2016

Such a Lovely Place, Such a Lovely Face.


Tonight, I’m staying in a hotel with practically the same postcode as my flat, to mark my second wedding anniversary.

I should clarify that I’m not here on my own; my wife's with me too. It’s a nice, reasonably high-end place (despite being a Travelodge in a past life) with a generous balcony and some well-stocked tea and coffee-making facilities. It even has a walk-in wardrobe, in the sense that you could step in there should you so choose to, but you wouldn’t want to hang about.

It’s good to have a break from home. The only frustrating thing was we checked into our room five hours after it was available, because I had work to do for tomorrow and Saturday’s shows. I didn’t like being in my office, knowing I could have been in a nice hotel room that we’d paid for to have a little time to ourselves. This was unavoidable though, as the more I got done today, the better-prepared I’ll be tomorrow.

I’m very tired this evening, thanks to a late finish after last night’s gig and a long day today. Consequently, I’ll keep tonight’s post brief. One thing I will do before I go, is share a photo of me and a friend I made at dinner; she didn’t provide the most sparkling conversation, probably on account of having nothing from the shoulder blades downwards. 

"...and what do you do?"

Monkey Mind.

Today, I've been a ball of anxiety, with the only relief being I ended the day with a good gig, which went some way towards reminding me that I'm vaguely capable of doing the thing I'm trying to do in the first place. 

I've been chasing my tail since I woke up; running out of time from the word go. I spent most of the morning printing out contracts for the venues I'm doing previews at, along with bank statements for a financial advisory appointment I have tomorrow morning, and ad-hoc flyers for my three shows this week, to take the place of the professional printing I'd ordered and since discovered won't arrive before the actual performances. You've got to love wasting money; it's good for the soul.

Frustratingly, I only managed to run the first half of my show before I had to go home and get ready to head into London for tonight's gig. There was a temporary respite this afternoon, however, when I met my friend Stephen for a coffee; you need the occasional break to retain your sanity. 

At least tonight's spot went well. I also had the chance to have a look at the venue's tech set-up as I'm doing a preview there on Saturday, so that's given me a bit of a headstart for then. All I need now is an audience. Phil Kay's sharing the bill, for Chrissakes: you wouldn't want to miss that. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Human Scissors.


What I could really do with at this stage of putting my Edinburgh show together is an editor.

I have so many little bits and pieces and ideas flying around that I can scarcely keep track of them, let alone decide what’s best 'in' and what’s best 'out'. This is partly thanks to my blog, which has been a fantastic source to call on, as I wouldn’t remember half of the things that crossed my mind over the past few years if it weren’t for it, but it can also be an overwhelming record to get to grips with; it can be luck of the draw as to whether I’ve picked the right entries, or whether there are some far better ideas that have been lost, under the weight of it.

Yesterday was a case in point: before I started a run, I noted down a couple of rough ‘new’ ideas – i.e. old blogs that I hadn’t yet looked at in a stand-up context that had popped into my mind – to have a quick look. In doing so, I stumbled across a piece I’d half-worked up for last year’s show, but dropped because it didn’t fit with the concept. I happened to have a couple of audio clips of me talking the idea through on Evernote (with an accompanying slide show) that made me laugh out loud on listening back, which would fit in perfectly with one of the central themes in this year’s show, which is ‘ignorance’. As a result, this piece of material has been reinstated after a year-long break, will feature in this weekend’s preview, and I suspect will end up in the final show; thank God for record-keeping software.

My original intention for the next three previews was as follows:

·      To make Friday’s performance at The George purposely longer than the final running time of about fifty-five minutes, so I can road-test a few bits of pieces that might not make it into the show, and extend a few of the ideas so I can work out what are the best points in them, before I do a ruthless edit.
·      To do a similar show on Saturday at The Water Poet as a tight running-time isn’t needed; essentially being the Last Chance Saloon for new ideas.
·      Approach Monday at The Etcetera Theatre with a heavily shorn version of the show, that hopefully hits the best points. It will be a test to see how it works when stripped back to basics.

Whether these dates will turn out as I’d like remains to be seen. If I had this mythical editor, I could turn to them and ask them to be ruthless over what works and what doesn’t. As it stands, the only person I can truly turn to at the moment is myself – with the help of a few audio recordings of my runs – and trust in my own judgement. It’s hard though, when I’ve got so much admin to do for all of these dates - and for the Beast that is Edinburgh - that I spend less time working on the meat of the show and more time working the artwork for it.

Monday, 11 July 2016

University Challenged 2016/17: Volume 1 (11.07.16)


Tonight saw, without fanfare, the return of BBC2’s Quizzy Monday.

I, for one, had no idea it was coming back yet; if it weren’t for a phone call from my wife’s mum about it, I would have missed it entirely, and consequently been very angry about it. Instead I got to watch it and be angered by that instead.

Sheffield Vs. Bristol (11.07.16).

See below for this week’s low-level unpleasantness, as tweeted by me during the show. Some of it won’t make much sense if you didn’t watch the programme, but you should get the gist of it.

I’m sorry for being such a bitch.

8:03pm: Paxman: is that a wig?

8:04pm: Paxman's hair. So soft.
Fluffy Paxman.

8:07pm: Rolleston, pulling a classic #UniversityChallenge 'I think I know the answer to that one' face, when he doesn't.

8:08pm: "No, that's John Fas-HA-nu."

8:10pm: Clarke's got a face on her.

8:11pm: Rolleston: the village Cun-stable.

8:12pm: Pemberton. CHIN.

8:13pm: Paxman borrowed tonight's hairstyle from an old woman he walked past on the way to the studio.

8:16pm: Tomsett's channelling Roofi from The Simpsons.

8:20pm: Paxman's hair suggests his journey to the recording incorporated passing through a particularly tricky hedge.

8:20pm: Tomsett's hair is mostly guinea pig.

8:22pm: Sheffield's Cotton's underwear is made of.

8:25pm: Scapula: 80s cartoon, voiced by David Jason.

8:27pm: Cotton: this week's murderer.

8:30pm: Disdainful look on Clarke's face, because Paxman promised to call but never did.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Spider in the Bath

 I was just about to extricate a spider from my bathroom using the classic postcard and glass technique, when it divebombed out of sight. 

It was like the eight-legged little feller was acting on military orders to avoid capture at all costs. Whether it had meant to fall from such a great height (on the wall, a few centimetres from the ceiling) the tactic worked as, at time of press, I haven't seen him wandering about. I'm happy to bide my time as, before long, I'll seem him. He can't live in a hidden damp, patch forever - or maybe he can; I don't know how these things work. 

The spider problem is fairly prevalent in our house; so much so that postcards are strewn about, in preparation for imminent threat. For some reason our ideal postcard of choice tends to be one of many the many A6 flyers from Doggett & Ephgrave shows; it's good to be able to put them for second use. *cough* Camden *chough* The downside is you get confronted by your own face a heck of a lot.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Wimbledone.

Today, I (Mr 'Didn't do Games Throughout His Secondary School Education, Because He Had a Note From His Mum, Saying He Had a "Personal Medical Problem") went to Wimbledon to see the Women's Singles, Doubles and Men's Doubles Final. 

...and get this: I bloody loved it. 

I was surprised by how meditative watching the game was; without wishing to sound poncy it was an exercise in mindfulness. A split second before the first match started, the sudden change in the atmosphere was tangible as the whole of Centre Court focused in. Something about the layout makes you feel like you're in the midst of the action. It was very exciting, and a world away from the discomfort of watching a football match or a West End play.

I was fortunate to be there in the first place. My wife has had a lucky stretch of getting tickets over past few years, attending last year's men's semis (fnar fnar) and the Olympics' tennis to name a few. She'd promised me first dibs if her number came up again, which it did. We baulked a little at the price, but her mum generously offered to pay for it as a joint birthday present, for which I'm very grateful. It's a gift I won't forget in a hurry. 

I was surprised by how accessible the courts were. We'd barely walked on site before spotting Andy Murray and Serena Williams warming up. It was like the Edinburgh Fringe without the tension, and far more polite. 

It was the women's games that piqued our interest, as we had less investment in the men's match (partly due to taking an extended comfort break). I'm not usually one to be lured in by celebrity, but I was impressed to see Venus and Serena play, and all within eyeshot of David Attenborough, John Hurt, Martina Navratilova, Peter Kay, Beyoncé and Jay-Z. By far the greatest understatement of the day was uttered by a woman behind me as she spotted a famous face take her seat.

"That's Ellen DeGeneres there. She does that chat show." 

Got it in one, Love. Got it in one. 

Friday, 8 July 2016

Outsized Ping Pong.

I'm going to level with you: I need help. I've got tickets to the Wimbledon Women's Singles Final tomorrow and I'VE NO IDEA HOW TENNIS WORKS. 

Don't got me wrong; I know there's something about a net. I've got an inkling that Cliff Richard's involved, though I could be misremembering it. I hope so, as there's only so much shakey airy singing one man (or fifteen thousand men and women) can take before they stave their own head in.

It's not just the Women's Singles i'll see tomorrow, but the Male and Female Doubles Finals too. I've never been close to such big sporting events without running a gig on the same night, and wondering why nobody's turned up. We're like dowsing rods for sporting tournaments.  

It should be a hell of an experience. If you're going to see a handful of folk get into battle mode in a sporting contest, you may as well see the best; though I plan to spend the whole day showing everyone I can that trick where you fold a tenner to make Charles Dickens' hair and the Queen's face morph John McEnroe. It's good clean fun.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Up Where We Belong.

My wife said some words of wisdom to me before I left for yesterday's gig (and they weren't "Let it be"). 

I told her which material I was planning to do as I said goodbye and asked, " Will that be all right?", to which she said, "Tell them it's all right". 

(I'm married to Yoda.) 

That's stand-up in a nutshell. There shouldn't be doubt. I'm in control of my stories; I own them. So why apologise for what I tell? 

It's amazing how easy it is to forget the essentials. I've spend a heck of a lot of my life on stage, as an actor, a musician and a comic. I've played nearly every major theatre in the country, and most of the minor ones too. I've even been in a West End musical, which considering my distaste for the idiom is frankly ridiculous - so why do I still frequently feel I shouldn't be there?

To be fair, it's usually only just before I go on. When I'm performing, it suddenly makes sense, and on a good day, I'm at ease; my 24/7 slapstick takes a quick lunch break. So why do I so often forget this?

(Enough of the questions, David.) 

It doesn't help when there's a long day around it. Yesterday's gig was near Liverpool Street, which is very easy to get too. Today's was in Winchester, which was a bit of bit trek. The venue and the club were lovely, but when you've spent most of your day travelling alone (interspersed with endless admin), it's highly unlikely that your ten-minute spot will be comedy gold. 

Still...yesterday I managed to take my wife's advice and it helped. I may make it my mantra, as long as I don't wind up looking conceited.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Stepping Out.

The part of yesterday's meditation class I enjoyed the most, surprisingly, was when our teacher sent us into the grounds of the school where the lessons take place, to enjoy a fifteen minute stroll by ourselves. 

He wasn't just playing for time, or getting rid of us so he could update his parking ticket. The purpose of the exercise was to enjoy a moment of mindful walking; taking in our surroundings with awareness, rather than being swept up with the thoughts in our head.

This is something I've been trying to do more of late. I frequently find myself on my way to a gig, already in performance mode, wasting mental energy going over the same racing thoughts until suddenly, I'm at the railway station, wondering where that twenty-five minute walk went. It's disconcerting when you can't remember whether you looked before you crossed the road, or if bought or shoplifted that Cadbury's Twirl. It's much nicer to take in the colour of the flowers or the sweetness of the baby moorhen you pass enroute. 

(Too specific?)

Admittedly, I'm making a similar mistake now, by writing this blog on the train into London, trying to get it finished before I pull into King's Cross. Too much of my time is taken up with deadlines at the moment, with every minute accounted for. This is something I'll try to address, once the beast that is the Edinburgh Fringe has passed. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Mainly A Mostly Comedy Press Release.

One of the many things I did today - there really were many; the amount of deadlines for Edinburgh that are suddenly looming have sent my brain into meltdown - was write to a press release this month's extra Mostly Comedy.

The rush to do this made it a little cut-and-shut, but it still does the job. See below for the document in all its copy-and-paste glory; I'd book tickets on the strength of its beauty alone.

Press Release – 04.07.16

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

July sees two installments of Doggett & Ephgrave’s popular monthly Hitchin comedy club Mostly Comedy at The Sun Hotel in so many days. While 21st July’s show with Peep Show’s ISY SUTTIE, QI’s AISLING BEA and TOM GOODLIFFE is officially sold out, there’s a chance to snap up return tickets on the night. However, tickets are still available for the 20th July’s gig, featuring Edinburgh Previews from NISH KUMAR and ALISON THEA-SKOT.

NISH has come a long way since first playing Mostly Comedy back in 2010, having appeared on BBC’s Have I Got News For You, Live at The Apollo and Mock The Week and Dave’s Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled in the past few years alone. 

He took his first full hour to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2012 to excellent reviews; Time Out described him as ‘Massively charming and very witty. A delightful talent’ and The Guardian as ‘a highly polished, subtly innovative stand-up’. The same show, ‘Who is Nish Kumar?’ went on to be nominated for Best Show at the Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival in 2013. Since then, he’s taken a solo show to Edinburgh each year, culminating in 2015’s ‘Long Word…Long Word…Blah Blah…I’m So Clever’ being nominated for Best Show at the festival’s prestigous Comedy Awards. He hosts BBC Radio 4 Extra’s Newsjack and appears regularly on Josh Widdicombe’s show on XFM.

Following last year's 5-star reviewed character comedy show 'Some Like It Thea-Skot', which was packed to rafters at the Edinburgh Fringe and went on to sell out its Soho Theatre run, ALISON THEA-SKOT hits Hitchin for the first time with an even more electric hour of chaotic character comedy.  

Thea-Skot is a critically acclaimed actress, comedian and improviser and has previously been selected as part of The Telegraph's Best of the Fringe, London Is Funny's Top 13 Edinburgh Shows To See, Mervyn Stutter’s Pick of the Fringe and featured on The BBC Culture Show. After last year’s word of mouth Edinburgh hit put her firmly on the comedy map, the buzz around her has continued, with her regularly featurng on Radio 4 comedy sketch shows including Newsjack and So On & So Forth and her online comedy sketches being featured on The Poke, The British Comedy Guide and Chortle. 

Both 20th & 21st July’s gigs are emceed by “polished, natural comedians” (Camden Fringe Voyeur) DOGGETT & EPHGRAVE. They take place at The Sun Hotel. Doors open at 7:30pm, with the first act on at 8:00pm. Tickets for the 20th are available via www.mostlycomedy.co.uk. A waiting list for the 21st will be taken on the door from 7:15pm, with any available tickets sold on a first-come, first-served basis.  

Date: Wednesday 20th & Thursday 21st July
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

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Sunday Stuff.

Some days don't bear much reporting, when you write a daily blog. 

That's not to say that I haven't done anything. On the contrary, I've managed to fit quite a bit in; from going out for breakfast with my wife to doing our standard Sunday afternoon trip to Wilkinson (I refuse to call them 'Wilko', however much rebranding they do). It just doesn't make for an particularly interesting blog post, when you're feeling otherwise uninspired to come up with something funny and / or interesting; life can't be thrills all the time; we all have to go through the rigmarole of everyday existence. 

It wasn't just food  and convenience store-style shopping that filled today's events; I also did a spot of cat-sitting for a neighbour, and spent an eon trying to edit some graphics to promote a preview I've booked in at the end of the month. It's actually been a bit of a booking day, in that I managed to confirm two more previews, with another in the pipeline; this is a far more promising situation than I found myself in towards the end of last week. This is good, as Edinburgh is drawing ever closer, and the more time I have to try the show out and hone it, the better

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Being my Own P.A.

I spent much of today sending out emails to secure a few more preview bookings of my show over the next month. 

Pleasingly, it looks like most of the venues I contacted will come good by resulting in another performance, though frustratingly, they've all be left open-ended, in that I'm still waiting for the final confirmation that we're going ahead. I don't like ending the day without a resolution, as it makes me feel tetchy about the outcome. 

I look forward to when I don't have to be the only one doing all the organising. It's annoying to split my attention this way, as I end up feeling like I spend more time organising than performing - and all while working to a budget that couldn't be tighter; it's fine to speculate to accumulate, if the accumulation ever comes. Who'd work in the performing arts, eh?

Friday, 1 July 2016

The Lucky Ones.


It’s hard to comprehend the number of lives lost at the Battle of the Somme and during the First World War in general.

Over a million people were killed or injured on both sides during the infamous Somme Offensive, with Britain suffering nearly 60,0000 on the first day alone. So many loved ones were ripped from their families without notice and for very little gain. I can’t imagine what the soldiers were thinking and feeling as they waited their turn to charge, having seen so much carnage around them. Perhaps most heartbreakingly of all, many of the people fighting were practically boys; the average age of a British soldier was just twenty-six.

I watched this morning’s coverage of the centenary of the first day of the battle with a mix of sadness and fascination. The film and photographs they showed from the time were hugely evocative and striking. The statistics were staggering. They talked of a boy who snuck away from his family to sign up attwelve years old, who fought at the Somme for six weeks until a letter from his mum revealing his age reached France and he was sent home. I don’t know how anyone could cope with what they saw and did, least of all when they were so young. He must have returned from mainland Europe feeling far older than when he left.

It’s vital that we remember what happened back then, irrespective of the time that’s passed. I observed the two-minute silence on a bus, and afterwards, as I looked around, I thought of how much I take for granted that I wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for them. I wouldn't have coped if I’d been there. I wouldn’t have had the strength. So many young men and women were robbed of the lives and stories they could have shared without the war. I – and we – will remember them.