Tuesday, 31 January 2017

As it stands, we're currently sixteen days away from playing host to the legendary comic actor Ardal O'Hanlon , which is very exciting; it's like waiting for a Dougal-Themed Christmas.

See below for the press release for the gig, which I've included in lieu of a propery blog post; Exciting times are definitely ahead and I want to make the most of them:

Press Release – 27.01.17

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

While February’s Hitchin Mostly Comedy is officially sold out for the third month running, there’s still a chance to snap up return tickets on the night. This month, the club’s custodians DOGGETT & EPHGRAVE play host to ARDAL O’HANLON (best known as Dougal in Father Ted).

Son of the Irish politician Rory O’Hanlon, Ardal was born in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, in 1965. After attending school there, he enrolled at Dublin City University, where he studied communications. His real interest, however, was stand-up, and in the early '90s he co-founded the ‘International Comedy Cellar’ above a bar in Dublin with fellow comedians Kevin Gildea and Barry Murphy, at a time when the city had no comedy scene to speak of. He went on to win the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year in 1994 and was spotted by Graham Linehan soon afterwards and cast in Father Ted. The sitcom ran for three series from 1995-98, receiving three BAFTAs and six Comedy Awards (including one for Ardal for Best Comedy TV Newcomer).

Since Father Ted, O’Hanlon has appeared in numerous TV programmes in both comic and straight roles, including BBC1’s ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Blessed’, E4’s ‘Skins’, ITV’s ‘Big Bad World’ and as the voice of Robbie in ‘Robbie the Reindeer’ for BBC1. He also played George Sunday (AKA Thermoman) in five series of ‘My Hero’ for BBC1.

Welsh comic JENNY COLLIER joins O’Hanlon on the bill. Jenny launched her stand-up career in 2010; since then, she’s performed in Hong Kong, Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland and Australia, where she won the Percy Award for most seats sold at her venue - over 1900 tickets - during the Adelaide Fringe. She’s written for BBC Radio 4’s ‘The News Quiz’, Huffington Post and Glamour Magazine. Last year, she performed her debut hour on the Edinburgh Fringe to critical acclaim.

The gig takes place on Thursday 16th February at The Sun Hotel; doors open at 7:30pm with the first act on at 8:00pm. The show will be emceed by “polished, natural comedians” (Camden Fringe Voyeur) DOGGETT & EPHGRAVE. While it’s officially sold out, a waiting list for returns will be taken on the door from 7:15pm, with any available tickets distributed shortly afterwards, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Date:                Thursday 16th February 2017
Venue:             The Sun Hotel
                         Sun Street
                         SG5 1AF

Bar open all day. Waiting list from 7:15pm. Doors at 7:30pm. First act on at 8:00pm.                     
Admission:      £11.00. www.mostlycomedy.co.uk

Metropolitanly Monged.

The sudden rush of air as I stood on the escalator yesterday, combined with the strong smell of weed, turned the exit of Camden Town tube into a massive bong.

You don’t expect using public transport to lead to an impromptu forced drug-ingestion, but apparently in NW1, that’s the way it goes. It calls to mind when Shredded Wheat used to have a factory next to Welwyn Garden City Railway Station; passing through at speed would result in the distinct odour of Ian Botham’s favourite breakfast cereal clouding the air. It was akin to balancing a thin line of crushed wheat on the side of your index finger and snorting it like snuff.

(…the things you do when you’re a student.)

I wasn’t particularly happy about the sudden hit of the dreaded herb. Being stoned is the last thing you want when you’re about to do a show, either in the smoking or the rock-based punishment sense; both add an extra, stressful layer to proceedings; I have enough of an internal monologue going on when I’m mid-performance, without adding the need to listen to mid-Sixties’ Dylan too, or the work of that other pot-addled Bob figure, Bob Marley.

Being forced to passively-smoke marijuana on your way out of Camden Town station is one thing, but it could have been worse: I could have been on London’s longest Underground escalator at Angel tube. If so, I would have left my clothes in a pile by the door and danced away to the tune of Tide of the Season by The Zombies (which is a very niche Simpsons reference.

Etcetera Etcetera.

Tonight saw the final performance of last year’s Edinburgh show in London, or at all, outside of my date at the Leicester Comedy Festival in February.

The venue was the Etcetera Theatre, which is one of my favourites to work in, both for what it feels like to play and for its tech set-up. It’s a home from home really, as I’ve been there so many times on my own and with Glyn that I know just what to expect, which is helpful when your get-in is likely to be a little rushed. There’s a projector and screen rigged too, which is great as that’s two less things to take, plus they’re both good quality, which is something of a rarity in Fringe venues; two spaces instantly spring to mind with projectors with lamps so old they barely reach the wall they’re meant to hit. The Etcetera screen’s also huge, which makes my stuff work so much better.

Another thing the Etcetera is great for is its support. They constantly retweet and promote your show and are very helpful on and around the day. It was heartening to arrive to find the posters I’d ordered were displayed as planned, it was fairly obvious I was at the right venue.

Never heard of him.
The downside to doing sporadic date here and there is it makes you feel rusty. This, combined with a slightly frenetic half an hour before the show, made for a slightly stressed me; so much so, I purposely went up ten minutes late, to allow time to wolf down a salad (do wolves eat salad?) and quickly reset my addled brain.

View from the lighting box (30.01.17)
The show went well despite the rush. The audience were nice and fairly vocal; particularly two women who arrived a little late, who were a godsend, in that they were chatty in a good way and gave me plenty to work with. One kept responding to my jokes with punchlines of her own, which made me suggest we form a double act. She told me she was coming up to Edinburgh this year and was going to suggest it herself. Her friend asked if I’d give them free tickets if they looked me up, to which I said resounding yes; if they happen to read this, my offer still stands; see you there.

Now my last London Mostly David Ephgrave show's done and dusted, I plan to get on with piecing together newer material to be ahead for my first work in progress dates in April; it would be nice to approach my Leicester Festival MDE gig knowing I have the skeleton makings of my next show in my bony, bony hand.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Buzz Me.

Today, I mistook my cat’s snores for my mobile vibrating; I lead a lonely life.

(Just like the woman in the Ace of Base song.)

I heard it just as I’d finished running my show, and assumed it was my wife calling to say she was on her way home. It turns out it wasn’t, unless she now communicates by channelling her thoughts through the sounds of sleeping felines, which would be weird as well as difficult to orchestrate.

What gave the game away was the fact my phone is almost always on silent, particularly when I’m working. I like to assert control over when I have to deal with anything the real world throws at me, as it makes me feel less stressed; I’d recommend this technique to anyone who suffers from anxiety, or is simply too busy, as it helps you to take your foot off the metaphorical gas (which I mean in the American sense; not that I want to dwell on the goings-on in that country at the moment).

Maybe my cat was trying to fuck with my head. Maybe she's the leonine equivalent to a myna bird. I wouldn’t put it past her; it’s well-documented that all cats are gits. Still, at least she feels rested.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Garden City Comedy.

Yesterday, I met Glyn briefly to go over business related to March’s Mostly Comedy at the Broadway Cinema & Theatre in Letchworth.

The gig is less than five weeks away and we’re pretty much up-to-speed. It should prove to be a nice optional extra to our Hitchin shows, with a gentle nod to our occasional  - for want of a better word - upgraded Summer Specials. Every so often, we’ve staged a version of the club at a bigger venue to wherever we were based at the time, which have always been a successful, slightly posher alternative to the usual gig. This will be the biggest room to date, in keeping with the club’s gradual growth over the last eight years, and the fact it’s in a theatre (instead of the studios and ballrooms of the past) should make for a well-earned, slick, higher-grade event.

(No pressure.)

There are a few challenges. The main one is seeing if the fact the venue has only just been reworked from a cinema into a theatre will make for enough footfall to spread word about the gig. There isn’t a reason why it shouldn’t sell, providing it’s been well-promoted, but as the space has only just been redesigned, it may not quite have the regular audience it's likely to build once the Broadway is taken into Letchworth’s heart as a live venue. We’re very early in the theatre’s first season, so there’s not as much time for the audience to grow as there would be if the gig were happening a few seasons in.

That said, everything has to start somewhere (to quote a pointless maxim). The line-up is also great, with industry stalwarts Arthur Smith and Norman Lovett on the bill; both of whom would usually sell out a Mostly on their own.

This morning we shared the trailer for March’s Letchworth gig that's been showing at the Broadway Cinema before their films for a few months. You can watch it below, as long as you click the link here to book; reading this paragraph is a legally binding contract.

Friday, 27 January 2017


If last night were a horror film, I’d call it 'Night of the Insomniacs'.

Admittedly, it would make for a dull movie, as it would just consist of me not sleeping for the duration, which isn’t really a spectator sport. It went on for so long - and with no let-up - that on more than one occasion, I considered calling it a write-off and just getting up. My breaking point in the end was 6:30am, as this felt close enough to a reasonable time to call the night a day; if I hadn’t fallen asleep by then, I clearly never would.

To be fair, this hasn’t happened to me in ages. For the past few months, I’ve kicked off most nights listening to a ten-minute sleep meditation that has knocked me out without fail. It’s been so effective as to almost be mystical in its success. Prior to using it, I’ve never been one for falling asleep easily and certainly never so consistently quickly; it’s truly been a godsend.

I know what the problem was. I met my friend Stephen yesterday afternoon for a coffee that gradually transformed into a Guinness or two, which led to me coming home later than intended and eating dinner not long before bed. For me, this is an evil twosome. While I’ve never been a big drinker, in recent years, I seldom react well to it at all; it’s a clear recipe for a broken night’s sleep, though not usually to the extent of yesterday, when I didn’t sleep at all.

What I should have done was get up at a point when the night wasn’t lost and read until I grew tired enough to go back to bed to try again; that would have been too easy. Instead I tried to sit it out, in the foolish belief that, despite having not happened for hours, Mr. Sandman would suddenly do the trick. I’ll never learn. Perhaps the time has come to turn teetotal? I’m too old for this. I don’t know how Keith Richards manages it (and he's older than anyone).

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Penultimately David Ephgrave.

Today, I did the first run of my show since I performed it at Leicester Square Theatre last November, to start getting it back up to speed for my gig in London next Monday.

I intend this to be my penultimate outing with it, with the last one being at the Leicester Comedy Festival at the end of next month. It was interesting going back to it today after such a long hiatus. I took a little while to get in the swing of things and forgot a few bits here and there, but once I got going, I enjoyed it. There’s a definite point just before halfway in where the energy of the material picks up and it becomes more fun; while I don’t intend to do much tweaking of the show so late in the game, this is something I’ll try to keep in mind when I start piecing together the next one.

The next one; now, there’s an intriguing thought. It’s high time I got on with it. While there’s been a palpable sense of anxiety around it since the summer, this has started to morph into excitement over literally the past few days. The first thing I need to do is sift through my blog and my various notebooks to pull out the bits that I think will work in a live context, and try to piece together the outline of a longer set that has energy and drive, and is more consistent than what I did last time around; the hardest part will be choosing what to include, as nearly four years’ worth of the blog is a hell of a resource; oh for an editor to do it for me.

I hope to make the process fun. While last year’s show wasn’t perfect, I’m still proud of it. The trick will be to make the next one better, and to give it more attack. It’s likely the projector will be more heavily involved as that’s what I do best; watch this space.

So Much for Mankind.

It’s hard to stay positive when so much of the news at the moment is so very grim.

This evening, I stumbled across a video of an interview Donald Trump gave in March last year in which he stated that women “should receive some form of punishment” if they were to have an abortion if they were banned in the US. I know this subject is contentious in America, but I still found the clip chilling; how anyone can be so detached from reality to believe such a thing - even if they retracted their words soon afterwards - is beyond me.

The fact he reinstated the Reagan-era policy banning foreign aid to any organization that offers counselling on abortion or discusses it as an option on his first day in office sets the tone of his Presidency for me. That this took place days after millions marched worldwide in the name of women’s rights only reiterates how little he was listening; sadly, this is probably the tip of the iceberg.

He’s not the only white middle-aged man who’s caused my bile to rise. Piers Morgan’s recent comments on Twitter regarding the women’s march (and the rise of “rabid feminists”) and on Ewan MacGregor pulling out of an interview with him because of what he said has also got my goat. Morgan strikes me as a man who will never be called to account for the distasteful things he says and does; it doesn't seem to touch the sides. It’s no wonder he's posing with Trump in his current Twitter profile picture; it's painfully appropriate.

If by a cruel twist of fate Piers Morgan ever becomes Prime Minister, I’m leaving the country (though where I’d go would be up for discussion; Madagascar perhaps?).

Monday, 23 January 2017

University Challenged: Volume Twenty-one (23.01.17)

The end of the current series of University Challenge is sneaking ever closer and inevitably, the faces of the contestants have grown very familiar.

We’ve already dined out on Venkatesh’s keenness that masks a slight murderousness and Clarke’s disdainful venom. That’s not to say we can’t enjoy them again, particularly in the case of the latter; my God, did Clarke have a cob on this evening; even Paxman must have approached her tentatively.

See below for tonight’s tweets:

Bristol Vs. Corpus Christi - Oxford (23.01.17)
7:33pm: Rolleston's wearing a surprisingly narrow waistcoat.

7:34pm: Venkatesh has a murderous resting face.

7:35pm: There's no substance thicker than the lenses of Fleet's glasses.

7:36pm: With a waistcoat like that, it's no wonder Rolleston will end up teaching history.

7:37pm: Mess with Bristol's Clarke at your peril.

7:38pm: Bristol's Clarke is a woman with attitude.

7:39pm: Clarke's far too busy for this #UniversityChallenge lark.

7:40pm: Bristol's Clarke.

7:43pm: 2. Bristol’s Clarke.

7:47pm: The longer the programme goes on, the more irritated Clarke gets about being there.

7:50pm: The last thing Clarke wants to do is waste thirty minutes in the company of these eight cretins (Paxman included).

7:51pm: Venkatesh likes that; not a lot, but he likes it.

7:52pm: *Idea for a pantomime with Bristol's Clarke as the Wicked Queen and Corpus Christi's Johnson as the good fairy.*

7:53pm: Fleet can see through walls with those glasses.

7:55pm: Bristol Clarke's tut is as loud as thunderclap.

7:57pm: A single withering look from Clarke can empty a room in seconds.

7:59pm: Bristol Clarke's mantra: "I'm seriously fucked off with this. I'm seriously fucked off with this.

Coming to a Head.

Is it weird to visit a barbers' you’ve never been to before to request a guy who used to run the shop next to you, but moved without warning to this other business, which you only happened to notice the other day when you saw him in there as you walked past?

For most people, the answer would be, “No”, yet for me, the answer is, “Probably”. I don’t live in the same dimension as the rest of the planet; I exist in a world where any case of awkwardness is ramped up to a hundred-and-ten and I’ll always be the one to take the brunt of it; I’m one of the privileged few who could be given a strange look by a passerby who'd just shat themselves willingly and still come out worse.

The sticking point that will make me take the risk is the fact he ‘gives good haircut’. He takes his time and barely needs any guidance. I can just sit quietly, knowing I’m in as safe scissored hands as if I were in the chair of Johnny Depp (when he’s playing Edward and not Sweeney).

I know it won’t be simple. I’ll have to circle the shop a few times before going in, to make sure he’s working. I’ll have to decide if it’s safe to mention the sudden closing down of his business (do his new colleagues know about this?). I’ll probably come out with a crew cut, because I’m too scared to say he's taken off enough...but at least I’ll be trimmed by a man who’s trimmed me before; this always take precedence.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Pint of Stella Street.

Over the last few days I’ve been rediscovering Phil Cornwell and John Sessions’ low-fi filmed-on-a-camcorder BBC2 comedy series Stella Street.

I came across the programme when it first aired, thanks to the recommendation of the lead guitarist of my then band. We become friends through a mutual love of Police Squad, which we’d discuss a lot at school, so when he pointed me toward Stella Street, I was likely to enjoy it.

The basic premise, if you haven’t seen it, is that a handful of celebrities have moved into a street in Surbiton, and are adapting to a more sedate pedestrian life. Most of the humour comes from seeing these people - who are mostly Hollywood A-listers - in incongruous mundane situations. The famous people are brought to life by just Cornwell and Sessions, who play most of the incidental characters as well. It’s a brave choice which pays off, though filming the series must have been a time-consuming affair, when you consider how many costume and make-up changes the actors had to endure to make it work; it must have been a frustrating experience.

A friend of mine appeared in the film as the back of the head any of the characters played by the same person talk to, and said it was a masterclass of coming acting; it must have been hard not to laugh when face to face with such excellent impressions that are so close to the real thing, particularly in the case of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who are the series and film highlight.

I’m essentially rambling about the show now because its late and I’m tired, but outside of my incoherent mumblings, it’s genuinely worth looking up when if you have the chance. It’s on YouTube at the moment, so it can’t be missed; until they take it down, that is: spoilsports.

Friday, 20 January 2017

One Step Forward, Two Hundred Million Steps Back.

Personally, I found the best way to cope with the shitstorm beginning in U.S. today was to avoid it entirely.

If it were feasible, I’d switch off the news for the next four years and hope for the best. I can’t bear the thought of seeing his ignorant orange face. How was it even possible for a man barely capable of finishing a cogent sentence to end up in the White House? How many faux pas (to put it lightly) must he be responsible for, for the people who voted for him to see sense? Well done, America: you out-Brexited Brexit.

Thankfully, outside of the odd post on Twitter and on the BBC News website, I managed to avoid the inauguration. My day was spent doing banking for Mostly Comedy, meeting my mum and watching the Partridge film Alpha Papa. The latter was just what the doctor ordered, to use a tired cliché. When things are bad, it pays to scale it all down and seek enjoyment in the little things. Speaking of little things: I hope his hands are too small for the button.

Firstly Comedy.

Despite being Glyn-less, tonight’s Mostly Comedy was a lot of fun.

Mostly Panoramic.
Apparently, it’s impossible to get us both in the same room when Richard Herring’s on the bill; I missed our inaugural (don’t mention Trump) Sun Hotel Mostly last January - which Richard also headlined - due to illness, and Glyn missed tonight's as he was Company Managing the Market Theatre’s Adult Panto on the road (which isn't an illness). While all went well last year, it was bound to be a little fraught as it was our first proper show at the venue (excluding the 'Sun-mer Special' the previous summer); for me there would have been less of an excuse. Thankfully, I needn’t have worried as everything was slick and no-one died, thanks to the hard work of the staff, Paul, Gemma, Lisa, Stephen, Clive and Glen, who all stepped up-to-the-plate; while I refuse to include their surnames here, I’m eternally grateful.

(I haven't learnt their surnames.)

Brodi Snook.
It helped that we had a cracking line-up. Brodi Snook kicked things off after I opened the show, making her first appearance at the club. I’m sure it won’t be her last; she's effortlessly self-assured and has great material. She also stayed to the end despite catching the train up from Brighton, which showed commitment. I’d have been running to the station, sweating profusely (which says more about my state-of-fitness than anything).

A shocked Jay Foreman.
Sharing a charity handshake.
Jay Foreman closed the first half in typically top form. He last played Mostly a year and a half ago, which is too long an absence for someone who's performed at the club so much. The other day I stated erroneously on Twitter that he’d played every venue we’ve run Mostly at in Hitchin, London and Edinburgh, when he actually missed The George, but one out of seven isn’t bad.

Richard Herring, channelling Ringo Starr (Peace and Love)
We handed the second half over to Herring, who performed a sixty-minute version of his greatest hits show 'The Best' in a burst of pace and energy. It was my favourite performance from one of Glyn’s and my favourite acts, which true to its title, featured some of my favourite routines; to anyone who says you shouldn’t use the word ‘favourite’ three times in one sentence: I spit in your face.

My show notes.
I managed to make good use of tonight myself, by trying out some new material. I also sang (and danced) a truncated version of Nellie the Elephant with the hastily-rewritten lyrics below; see if you can spot the relevance.

Donald the President packed his trunk
And said hello to the White House.
Off he went with a Trumpety Trump,
Trump, Trump, Trump.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Checking the Small Print.

My life often feels like a catalogue of wasted time...as it did today, when I spent a few hours editing a poster for my Leicester Comedy Festival show to the most of a special one-day-only printing offer, only to find it wasn't applicable unless you went to their shop in Brighton to pick the artwork up.

(Fuck’s sake.)

To be fair, it wasn’t my fault, as the email I’d received from the company made no mention of this caveat until you clicked through to their website to commence your order. While this wasn't a disaster, I wouldn’t have made the poster yesterday if it weren’t for the mention of the special deal, as I had a lot that needed to be done for tomorrow’s Mostly Comedy instead; it’s not as if I can excuse myself from being funny at the gig, because I’d been limping through some primitive graphic design on Photoshop.

(The programme I was using was Gimp, but I didn’t mention this above, due to the word's negative connotations.)

Thankfully, the day wasn’t lost. I did manage to have a brief look at some new material that I may try tomorrow, as well as emailing the acts that are appearing and doing the lion’s share of the slideshow for it. I also met Glyn at The Sun Hotel in the evening to do an hour of prep before he had to rush off. It’s still not how I would have liked to spent my time though; a good poster does not a rehearsed show make.