Friday, 30 September 2016

Frustrated Friday.

I went into the office today with the intention of doing some work to promote next month's performance of my solo show, but ultimately, I couldn’t find the enthusiasm to do it.

It’s not that I don’t have faith in the show itself (though like any creative person, I flit between thinking what I do is good or awful with alarming speed and frequency). It’s just that today, for whatever reason, I wasn’t in the mood to big something up for what seems like the millionth time, to no apparent interest.

I know that sounds a little maudlin and self-pitying. The last bit’s also not strictly true; it’s just how it feels today, at this present moment. Working alone is hard; there’s no two ways about it. You only have yourself to depend on, and if you start feeling negative, this feeds laziness and apathy, which in turn, makes you feel worse. I’ve never been good at maintaining self-belief, particularly when no-one’s investing in what I do, or cajoling me on to do it.

It doesn’t help that I’m currently, strictly, unrepresented. There’s no-one bigging me up, actively promoting me, or getting me work. I’m my own agent, producer and PR and if I’m honest, I’m sick of it. I pride myself in being a good multi-tasker and I know how to pull together an event, such as Mostly Comedy or – previously –my Sixties show Glad All Over, but this tendency to organise everything hasn’t done me any favours in the long-run. The comedy club is a good case in point; it’s now stupidly successful, in terms of the acts that play it - Rory Bremner next month - and the audience interest, but when it comes to promoting my solo show, conversely, few people turns up. I’m exaggerating a bit, but it can feel like it; I’ve just got to the point when I need someone in the industry to take an active interest, so I feel like what I’m doing is worthy of it.

To be fair, when it comes to much of my career, I’ve been spoilt. I’ve toured the country, playing the majority of its biggest theatres, and worked in the West End. I’ve taken shows to the Edinburgh, Leicester, Brighton, Camden and Bath Festivals and even been in adverts for Volkswagen and the AA, for Crissakes - the acting "toppermost of the poppermost" - but when it comes to my comedy career, I’m unsatisfied with where I'm at.

Perhaps I need a break. I should also put things into perspective: it’s a sunny day and it’s nearly the weekend. Most importantly of all, my biscuit barrel’s fit to bursting; if it was empty, I’d be at my wits end. Someone give me a shot of positivity, please.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Hare, Hare Daniels.

It may be oblique, but I can’t hear the song 'My Sweet Lord' without thinking of Paul Daniels.

This bizarre mental association came about as a result of a conversation I had with him when he played Mostly Comedy last year. We were walking from our then-venue the Market Theatre to our new venue, The Sun Hotel, to record our podcast, when I brought up the subject of George Harrison. I try to find common ground whenever someone new plays our club, particularly when we're interviewing them for our podcast. Invariably for me, this tends to involve The Beatles when it can (e.g. when interviewing Kevin Eldon – who had their music as his Mastermind specialist subject – and Phill Jupitus – who’s friends with Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, who were in the film 'Magical Mystery Tour'); it’s often tenuous, but it works.

I was aware that Harrison used to live in the same town as Daniels – Henley-on-Thames – and asked Paul if he’d ever bumped into him. Surprisingly, this caused him to launch an ad hoc debate about a very specific litigious case.
"I don't know how he thought he'd get away with ripping off that song, whatever it was," he said, " when they both had the same tune".

Thankfully, when it comes to Fab Four trivia, I'm shit-hot. It's a skill that seldom comes into its own: I may be able to identify any Beatles record within milliseconds, tell you whixh album it came from, the year it was released, and accompany this with a fair-sized handful of related facts, but this knowledge doesn't put food on the table; though it does prove useful when chatting with Britain's biggest conjurer.

The song Daniels was referring to was 'My Sweet Lord', which was the focus of a long-running legal battle in the early Seventies, due to its apparent similarity to the Chiffons' song 'He's So Fine'; look it up.

We talked about this briefly, while I did my best to pretend I wasn't intimidated by chatting with my childhood hero, who I'd only met a moment ago, and consequently had had little time to adjust to speaking to yet; thank God we were discussing a topic I knew something about.

By the time we got to The (Here Comes the) Sun Hotel, had a cup of tea and settled down to record the podcast, this intimidation passed. We had a great chat with Paul and Debbie that took in a whole variety of subjects, though sadly, nothing else about suing a Beatle. Still: at least all that genning up on the band as a kid paid off. I discussed copyright infringement with one of the world's most famous magicians, and not a lot of people can say that.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

GBBO 2016: Volume Six (28.09.16)

There's something about the autumn that finds me constantly tweeting along to the TV.

It probably looks like I’ve nothing better to do with my time, though in a way, it’s a time-saver, as it indirectly gives me a bit of a break from finding things to discuss here; I’ll often abandon my usual prose-based blogs, in favour of a summary of my Twitter ramblings on whichever show was on that night; it’s not my fault that University Challenge, Strictly Come Dancing and The Great British Bake Off all air at once.

Tonight’s Bake Off was a pastry-case in point. See below for what came to mind whilst watching this evening's show. At the risk of a spoiler, it was a shame to see Rav go. Did you also know that Bruce Willis was dead in Sixth Sense? When it comes to spoiling people’s fun, I’m the best.

8:02pm: I'll probably tweet along with for a bit; apologies to the uninterested.

8:04pm: Just a few minutes in, and I miss Val's unique brand of confused insanity already.

8:05pm: "This cake's systematic...(STING)...aromatic...(STING)..."

8:06pm: "The bakers can use anything that grows"; INSERT EUPHEMISM HERE.

8:08pm: Paul and Selasi wrestling. PICTURE IT.

8:08pm: I dumped a meringue once. I don't want to talk about it.

8:09pm: Andrew loves ginger; too easy.

8:12pm: Paul and Selasi, trimming each other's beards. Erotic.

8:12pm: I'll paint the inside of YOUR bag.

8:14pm: My favourite curd is Sharaf Khan Bidlisi.

8:16pm: I'm drowning in a sea of euphemisms.

8:20pm: So much fury over meringues.

8:21pm: There was no need for Candice to call Mary a tart. No need.

8:22pm: Only Selasi could look so manly in a floral t-shirt.

8:25pm: Looking forward to someone making a slip-up saying "fougasse".

8:29pm: Is Tom wearing that blue glove so they can CGI his right hand in later?

8:31pm: Bake your fougasse at fougasse-mark two.

8:32pm: Fougasse: because I like bread with a letterbox in it.

8:35pm: Say what you like, but #GBBO has done wonders for the glockenspiel underscoring industry.

8:37pm: Thanks to #GBBO, glockenspiel-playing session musicians are quids-in.

8:39pm: To give myself a taste of this week's #GBBO, showstopper, I'm sucking on an old lady's bar of soap.
8:45pm: To add to the poppy-seed theme, Benjamina should throw in a little Heroin.

8:46pm: I wish someone would pipe my buttercream flowers.

8:48pm: *Visions of Mary Berry post-hash-cake.*

8:50pm: Top marks to Candice for the look of her four-tier cake

8:52pm: It's shame Val's not still in this week: she was a fruitcake.

8:54pm: Watching #GBBO, eating pot pourri.

8:58pm: Not only does Selasi's showstopper look sensational, it also matches his outfit.

9:00pm: This week's decision was difficult. It was "lemon lemon difficult"

Monday, 26 September 2016

University Challenged 2016/17: Volume Nine (26.09.16)

All that needed to be said about tonight’s University Challenge was summed up in my first tweet of the evening: “Well…Regan’s a twat.”
Queen's - Belfast Vs. Birmingham (26.09.16)

Admittedly, it wasn't very subtle, but then neither was Regan’s get-up. He chose to make his début on the show dressed as a gimp. To be fair, he’s not the first; there have been many unfortunately-garbed contestants on the programme before this evening’s episode and there’ll be many to come. He was just in the invidious position of being the most eye-catchingly attired of the night, though he brought this attention on himself and therefore only has himself to blame. Still, what right have I to judge? You should have seen how ridiculous I looked at his age; I went to my drama school's graduation ball as a First Year in a pair of black and grey stripy flares; I didn’t even have the era as an alibi: it was the Nineties, not the Sixties.

Regan-bashing to one side, here are my evening’s University Challenge tweets:
8:03pm: Well...Regan's a twat.

8:03pm: Regan looks like Jarvis Cocker doing an impression of Elvis Costello.

8:04pm: Rouse = Murderer.

8:05pm: Sutherland's certainly bringing Birmingham's average age of 29 up.

8:05pm: Regan's hair comes off with his hat.

8:08pm: Jeremy Paxman says the word 'Wikipedia' like a mum says the word 'gig'.

8:11pm: Belfast's Doherty's come dressed as Gyles Brandreth.

8:13pm: All of Regan's style choices are wrong.

8:15pm: "Oh Regan, you're so...'individual'". Said by no-one ever (except for me, just then).

8:19pm: I'd like to stage a Roger Tilling / Alan Dedicoat Enthusiastic Voice-Over Face-off.

8:20pm: Why have Queen's Belfast got a outsized sprig of broccoli as a mascot?

8:22pm: Jan-Smith and Sutherland didn't get the blue jumper memo.

8:24pm: This #UniversityChallenge is all "Monet, Manet, Monet, Manet".

8:26pm: Greenlees and Rouse are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Team Birmingham.

8:28pm: ...because Greenlees and Rouse WOULD know the work of Tolkien inside-out.

8:30pm: I don't think Regan spent hours deciding on his outfit at ALL.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Quiet Day.

Some days you don't have much to report. 

I was meant to be going to watch the wrestling in London today (as you do), but I ended up cancelling, as my labyrinthitis decided to do its worst this morning, meaning it would be better not to go. Instead, I popped to the shop to pick up some croissants, so my wife and I could enjoy breakfast in bed, which was far preferable to watching a load of men pretending to fight each other in their pants. 

In the afternoon, I briefly popped into town to do a little shopping, and to go to the office, so I could send a couple of emails and run some material for tomorrow's gig. Frustratingly, I seem to have made the same mistake I made last year, and have sailed too close to the deadline for the Leicester Comedy Festival, meaning I probably won't be taking my show there next year. Yet again, I'm irritated by this, as I hate missing opportunities, and - while I'd intended to take my current show there next year for its last airing before presenting something new, so therefore won't be missing anything essential to working a new show up, it's still annoying; it would have been nice to have at least been on the radar for it. 

This evening, I started watching a Jack Lemmon film that I'll finish tomorrow as I began to fall asleep. So now, I'm going to bed. As I said at the beginning, I don't have much to report...but it's Sunday, after all; it's a day of rest.  

Saturday, 24 September 2016

'Strictly Come Tweeting 2016' (24.09.16)

I didn’t tweet along to yesterday’s Strictly Come Dancing, as I was watching Jaws 2 at the cinema – that old excuse – but tonight, I was BACK.

While I didn’t see yesterday’s show live, I watched it this morning, and while there was some good performances in it (I hate to say it, as he gets under my skin, but Ore Oduba was pretty sound), nothing grabbed me particularly. That wasn’t the case tonight, when there was a lot of potential on display; Louise, Daisy and Will spring to mind. Even Ed Balls did a good job, and not what I expected; I hope he gets to stay for a few weeks to give him a chance to improve, and isn’t given a raft of ‘amusing’ dances, to (1) be entertaining and (2) to get rid of him.

Below, you’ll find this evening’s tweets. Hopefully, they’ll make sense out of context.

6:32pm: Tonight, I'll be keeping a tally of how often Len Goodman says, "You came out."

6:32pm: Cue the on-beat handclapping.

6:33pm: Judge Rinder: my favourite dating app.

6:34pm: My wife, the moment she saw the two children ballroom dancing: "Revolting".

6:36pm: Tess Daly needs a sincerity chip fitted.

6:38pm: Sorry, Tess, but if you were to do nothing but "eat, sleep and breathe dance" YOU'D DIE.

6:41pm: Tess' "But no-one's leaving tonight" sounded like a threat.

6:42pm: Why didn't they make Louise dance on the Mary Rose?

6:44pm: Are the lyrics "You've gotta jump, jive and then you willy?"

6:45pm: How could Louise dance like that? She's a 'mega-mum'.

6:46pm: They should make Louise dance to that Eternal classic.......................erm?

6:49pm: It's like Ed Balls walked into the wrong room and now he can't exit.

6:51pm: My favourite #Strictly professional is Janette Manrarararararararararararararararararararararararararararararararararararararararaarararara.

6:52pm: Melvin's trousers will be burnt into my retina for the rest of the series.

6:54pm: I forgot the hips once. I felt to a pile on the floor.

6:57pm: So that's where the member of Black Lace who went to prison's shirt went.

7:11pm: None of tonight's routines are a patch on @davidduchovny's line-dancing in the recent X-Files series.

7:18pm: Tameka's song choice reminds me of being on holiday in the 1980s.

7:23pm: I love Will Young, but in his training videos, he appears to be wearing every outfit ever, all at once.

7:24pm: In the silence after Tess' "Cha-Cha-Changing of the Guards" joke, you could hear a hairpin drop.

7:26pm: The table in Anastacia and Brendan's routine was a little incongruous. A little like Ed Balls.

7:31pm: Ed Ballsroom.

7:34pm: To his credit, Ed Balls didn't do too badly.

7:38pm: I wish Ed Balls had worn that sparkly outfit in parliament.

7:38pm: AJ hasn't been born yet.

7:43pm: On Monday, AJ does his SATS.

7:45pm: Bruno's like Keith Moon's 'Fiddle About' character in Tommy.

7:50pm: Will Young's a splendid chap.

7:52pm: I had a Czech mate once.

"Just When You Thought it was Safe to Go Back in the Water."

Tonight, I went to see 'Jaws 2: The Wrath of Khan' at the Prince Charles Cinema.

My favourite bit was when William Shatner screamed "SHARK" at Ricardo Montalban, really encapsulating his frustration at the latter's vendetta against him. I also liked when Walter Koenig caught fire after biting the massive underwater electrical cable Roy Scheider enticed him onto; he deserved it for that despicable accent. 

As far as sequels go, 'Jaws 2' is pretty robust. The acting is understated for a mid-1970s blockbuster; there are a few too many teenage boys with exactly the same face wearing the same Bob Dylan caps in it, but that's par for the course for the era. 

It was one of the PCC's Beer and Pizza Nights, where cost of admission includes a can of beer and a slice of pizza (you would never have guessed it). Every so often you'd hear the satisfying click and fizz as someone else opened their drink; after a while, this made me envious, as I had the driest mouth on the planet, thanks to consuming a bag of popcorn on top of everything else; I'm suffering from RSI from lifting so much inverted corn to my cake-hole; when it comes to eating in a cinema, I clearly have no off-switch. 

As I write, I'm crammed into a deeply uncomfortable carriage of one of the shittest-of-the-shit trains Great Northern lay on from King's Cross to Hitchin of an evening. It's like they were designed as a tax dodge, with no intention of providing transport; they wouldn't look out of place at Bekonscot model village. If my jeans were any more rucked up I'd be a eunuch; still, at least my ticket was cheap. 

I also liked the dinosaurs and the bit when Johnny-5 was given the key to the city. I'll never understand why they banned it; all because of an inappropriate act with a crucifix. I'm misunderstanding things for comic effect; still we had fun getting to the end of this blog post, didn't we?

Friday, 23 September 2016

It's Kevin (Again)

Tonight's Mostly Comedy was a lovely way to usher in our Autumn season, but of course it would be, when you have Kevin Eldon on the bill. 

Kevin Eldon at tonight's Hitchin Mostly Comedy (22.09.16)  Photo by Gemma Poole. 

I can't understate how much I rate him as a performer; something I know Glyn would definitely agree. I still remember how excited we both were the first time he said yes to playing our club. I said in his introduction tonight how just about every time a one-off character in a sitcom or sketch show sticks in your mind, it's almost certainly played by him; he was the laughing guy in the lift in I'm Alan Partridge, for Chrissakes. Not only that, but his performance as Bill Kerr in the excellent Radio 4 series The Missing Hancocks was spot-on to the point of being eerie; to call him an unsung hero of UK TV comedy of the past twenty years would be a conservative understatement. 

The line-up for tonight's show was a great one, even after putting Eldon to one side. The lovely Nathaniel Metcalfe did a great set in the first half just prior to Kevin (which was great to see, having not had him on at Mostly for a couple of years), plus we had the equally lovely and razor sharp (and consumate comic) Matt Green close the second half with his Edinburgh show 'Writing to Harvey Keitel, which I last saw when we shared a venue on the Brighton Fringe in May of this year. Kevin Eldon is a tough act to follow when so many people would clearly have come to gig to see him, but if anyone could do it, it's Matt; particularly when performing a show with such an interesting subject. 

It was also a good night for me Glyn. It was notable how relaxed I felt on stage on sharing it for the first time since Edinburgh with him. It's a whole other beast to doing stand-up on your own and was a welcome release from all the solo work I've been doing recently. We managed to dig out a piece of material we haven't done for a couple of years and give it a bit of a spring clean, which made it more fun. I also snuck in my Twitter Six Word Film Plots piece, which got a nice reaction too. The only slight setback was that sales were a little lower than usual, but then, to be fair, it had only been on sale for a week. Considering the tight turnaround. It did pretty well. On the flipside, next month we have Rory Bremner, which is already sold out. How do you like them apples?
(You needn't respond.) 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

GBBO: Volume Five (21.09.16)

Today's was another cracker of a Bake Off, with more than enough to keep me interested; let’s face it: any programme with cakes in it will have me hooked to the screen. 

See below for today’s unnecessary Twitter #GBBO bitching. I’ve tried to keep myself reigned in enough that it doesn’t become too controversial:

8:02pm: "A Danish classic": Sandi Toksvig.

8:03pm: Val: you may be outside, but could you use your inside voice, please?

8:07pm: "I'm bashing it out while my dough rests". Too easy.

8:15pm: The mixers, when their beaters are up, remind me a little of the creatures in Alien.

Don't I know you?
8:18pm: Val's "a bit soft in the middle."

8:23pm: Paul Hollywood's grey shirt complements his salt-and-pepper hair perfectly.

8:26pm: Bakewell tart or Bakewell pudding? The people of Derbyshire will be KICKING OFF.

8:30pm: My favourite Top of the Pops dancing troupe were Frangipane's People.

8:31pm: I don't want to think about Val "Fanning it".

8:33pm: Selasi looks like he's about to nut someone.

8:35pm: Uh-oh, Val. UH-OH.

8:39pm: Selasi doesn't need an oven: he just stares at the foodstuff in question and it BAKES.

8:40pm: Jane's got a thatched head.

8:43pm: Candice needs a bit more sausage.

8:44pm: Candice's black pudding has a shade of Derek Smalls about it.

8:46pm: Jane's got a tribble on her head.

8:48pm: Val's unhinged.

8:49pm> I wouldn't trust Val with a cutlery drawer.

8:53pm: "It's not an appropriate gift for a man approaching fifty; it's too big."

8:53pm: Val's about to go on a killing spree.

8:54pm: I bet Paul sidled up to Candice in the hotel bar post-recording.

8:57pm: Bye Val. Leave the knives in the drawer, please.

8:59pm: Next week: Herbie Goes Bread.

Number Watching.

I'm trying to remind myself today that I shouldn’t be disappointed that September’s instalment of our comedy club has sold slightly fewer tickets than usual.

When you organise a regular event, it’s easy to forget the bigger picture; you get so caught up in the facts and figures for each individual date, you forget how things have been going overall. This has definitely been the case this month, when finalising our remaining 2016 line-ups; I’ve been so distracted by what’s ahead, I’ve overlooked how successful the rest of the year has been and how fortunate we are as a result.

Booking bills for a comedy club is a juggling act. It’s like fishing: you repeatedly cast your line in the hope something good takes the bait and gets hooked. To stretch the analogy, you have lots of rods on the go, instead of relying on one. You’re always on the look out for the best possible outcome; I can't help but feel that by mixing my imagery, I’ve clouded my original point.

We’re very lucky that every show since moving to our new venue has either sold well or sold out, with us squeezing in a couple of extra dates on top of the usual monthly output. While tomorrow’s gig may not have as many advance sales as some of our other shows, there are a few good reasons for this; the main one being we didn’t confirm the line-up and put it on sale until the beginning of last week. In light of that, it’s done very well. It's also worth remembering that next month’s show with Rory Bremner has already sold out with four weeks to go; we’re already up on the game, so we needn't worry just yet.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

University Challenged 2016/17: Volume Eight (19.09.16)

Just when we thought we’d seen every University Challenge possibility, Wolfson Cambridge’s Monkman came to save us.

Wolfson - Cambridge Vs. SOAS (19.09.16)

He had all the requisite tics and quirks of an eccentric UC contestant, with a few extra thrown in for good measure; so much so, I refuse to believe he’s a real person. He was like a incantation brought about by a bunch of nerdy Ouija users; a Weird Science for the weird science student. I was so taken in, I barely paid attention to the rest of the show that was happening around him.

See below for tonight’s Twitter outbursts; here’s hoping at least one of next week’s contestants can give Monkman a run for his money. I wait with bated breath.

8:02pm: Monkman rehearsed that smile. Nothing is spontaneous.
8:03pm: Monkman is clearly the #UniversityChallenge unhinged hit of the evening.
8:04pm: For a split second, Henry Edwards forgot what he studies.
8:04pm: "THE BONGOS": my future text tone.
8:08pm: Cosgrove has the expression of a man who's fully aware of Monkman's ridiculousness & the ridiculousness of his own hair
8:10pm: Monkman hands-down proves the existence of Artificial Intelligence.
8:11pm: Monkman's lips are allergic to his own teeth.
8:14pm: When it comes to amusing this series' amusing contestants, you may as well clear the boards: 'MONKMAN'.
8:15pm: Thanks to Monkman, I haven't even noticed SOAS.
8:16pm: Cosgrove has the look of a man who invented Monkman for a bet.
8:16pm: Monkman looks like a camp Stephen King.
8:19pm: Chalaby (left).

8:20pm: Cosgrove.

8:23pm: Monkman is wearing someone else's face.
8:25pm: Monkman isn't a real man, man. Monkman isn't a real man, man. Monkman isn't a real man, man. Monkman isn't a real man.
8:27pm: #UniversityChallenge was Monkman's destiny.
8:30pm: Was Paxman offering to bet his house on SOAS returning a legally binding contract?

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Load of Waffle.

Today, I ate waffles for both a main course and a dessert at The Waffle House in St Albans, thus bringing a whole knew meaning to the phrase 'waffly versatile'. 

My wife and I met our friends Philippa, James and their baby daughter Georgie there for lunch today, with no inkling as to whether you could enjoy both sweet and savoury waffles in one sitting. I've since learnt that you can. I'd briefly perused the menu online before leaving, trying to decide whether having more than one waffle-based course would be a culinary faux pas; do you just choose one type over another? If so, then what's the best option?

Deep down, I knew my sweet tooth would override the need for more standard lunchtime sustenance, if push came to shove. Thankfully, James threw down the edible gauntlet by ordering both the hummus & avocado waffle and the banoffee waffle, which I'd had my eye on too - and get this: they were bloody lovely. In a few hours, I'd gone from waffle indifference to a full-blown waffle convert. 

After lunch, we went for a walk around the park and for a quick drink in Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which is officially the oldest and most amusingly-named pub in the country. It may have had a lovely atmosphere but there wasn't a waffle in sight; these alehouses need to get with the times if they want to stay afloat in the current waffle economy, or at least that's what I think.